Tagged: fantasy

Fairy by Shane McKenzie

Fairy by Shane McKenzie(Cover picture courtesy of NetGalley.)

Cecilia will do anything to have a baby. Anything.

Cecilia has tried everything to have the one thing she wants most—a baby. She’s been through every procedure, taken every medication. Nothing seems to work. Her body simply refuses to grow the life she so desperately yearns for. Her jealousy is making her lash out at the pregnant women around her. She’s starting to worry about her sanity.

But all is not lost. There is still one way. And Cecilia will do whatever it takes.

Even if it means inviting an ancient creature into her bedroom.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I know the blurb sounds like it belongs to a crappy erotic novel, but I swear to you that this is straight up horror.  It’s actually quite terrifying.

I don’t find Cecilia incredibly sympathetic but she is interesting and held my attention.  She’s so desperate for a baby that she’s willing to try anything and she’s especially tortured by seeing new life come into the world as a midwife.  It’s hard for her, especially when she runs into her ex-husband with his new pregnant wife.  You can kind of see where Cecilia would try something so ridiculous and so horrifying that it’s hard to even read about.  I don’t want to spoil too much, but let’s say the ending was very much in character for her.

This is a novella which is good because I don’t think it would be possible to sustain this level of suspense over an entire novel.  In the beginning things are only kind of sad, but then the mood gets darker and darker as Shane McKenzie takes the novella to its terrifying (but believable conclusion).  The pace is quite fast but not at the expense of readers getting to know Cecilia and feel at least a little bit for her plight.

I like that Shane McKenzie stuck with the darker fairy mythology rather than making this into a shameless erotic novel that has a wonderfully happy ending where everyone goes about their merry way.  No, this really is horror and although the ending was rather predictable to my mind, I think it will be a shock for some people who pick this up.  If you’re big on horror I wouldn’t recommend it because you’ve probably read a novel just like this already but if you’re a newbie like I am this is a good sample of what the genre has to offer.

Basically, Fairy was everything a horror novella should be: short, dark and terrifying.  What more can you ask for?

I give this novella 4.5/5 stars.

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Threats of Sky and Sea by Jennifer Ellision

Threats of Sky and Sea(Cover picture courtesy of Two Ends of the Pen.)

Sixteen year-old Breena Perdit has spent her life as a barmaid, innocent to her father’s past and happily free from the Elemental gifts that would condemn her to a life in the Egrian King’s army. Until the day that three Elemental soldiers recognize her father as a traitor to the throne and Bree’s father is thrown in jail—along with the secrets from his last mission as the King’s assassin. Secrets that could help the King win a war. Secrets he refuses to share.

Desperate to escape before the King’s capricious whims prove her and her father’s downfall, Bree bargains with him: information for their lives. It’s a good trade. And she has faith she’ll get them both out of the King’s grasp with time.

But that was before the discovery that she’s the weapon the King’s been waiting for in his war.

Now, time is running out. To save her father’s life and understand her own, Bree must unravel the knot of her father’s past before the King takes his life– and uses her to bring a nation to its knees.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

You know, at first glance it would seem like Threats of Sky and Sea has it all: an interesting plot, some fantastic world-building with new takes on old tropes, a tough main character and plenty of intrigue.  Except when I finished reading Jennifer Ellision’s debut novel I was left feeling kind of hollow.

Unlike with many books, I know exactly why I was feeling hollow by the end: there really wasn’t that much action in the whole novel.  Yes, there’s action when Bree is plucked from her home and there’s quite a bit of action near the end of the novel but there’s really not all that much in the middle.  Despite the minor plot surrounding the king and the king’s generally evil intentions, I was left feeling that the plot lacked something.  I mean, Bree’s in a court where pretty much everyone hates her because of her father’s betrayal of the king.  Surely some people would try to remind her of her place, of her rough upbringing?  Surely there would be some other intrigues!  When it comes to novels I’m not that demanding in terms of plot pacing but I do like for there to be a little more substance to the plot.

Still, despite that I really loved the characters in this novel.  Bree is strong and brave but she at least learns when to keep her mouth shut, unlike a lot of YA heroines.  She’s definitely not your traditional heroine in the looks department either because she has short brown hair (gasp!) whereas the current trend usually has heroines with red hair.  Not only that, Bree really does love her father but that doesn’t mean she isn’t annoyed and hurt by his betrayal.  He told her nothing of her birth, of her abilities for sixteen years and you can’t expect someone to forgive another person (even their own parent) for a betrayal like that.  She grows to forgive her father, yes, but it’s a long path in that regard.

For a first novel, the world-building in here is fantastic.  Even for a second, third or tenth novel as a matter of fact.  I like how people born with elemental powers are both feared and respected as the king takes them in to fight for his army.  Not only that, I like how there is still quite a bit not known about where the powers come from, how and when they manifest, etc.  It makes it a little more realistic than Bree’s crazy teacher having all of the answers about everything.  Not only that, Jennifer Ellision has given quite a great deal of thought to the rest of her fantasy world and you can tell that we’re going to see a lot more of the other kingdoms mentioned in the next few books.

So aside from the lack of substance in the middle of the novel I was very impressed with Threats of Sky and Sea and I can’t wait to see what Jennifer Ellision dreams up next.

I give this novel 4/5 stars.

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The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia’s led a privileged life at court.  But everything changes when it’s revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection.  Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she’s ever known.

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks.  But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins – long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control – she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor’s history, forever.

A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.

This is technically YA but I’d definitely have to say it’s aimed at the younger demographic.  Maybe that’s why I had a harder time connecting with the characters than I should have.

I can’t honestly fault the plot.  It was fast-paced and interesting enough to keep me reading.  There were lots of unexpected twists and turns and I like how Eilis O’Neal turns some old tropes on their heads.  I thought The False Princess was just going to be another mash-up of fantasy tropes when I picked it up but I’m very glad I was wrong.

The only thing I was disappointed about was the characters.  The main character Sinda seemed like she had everything going for her: she was fierce, determined and generally easy to relate to.  Except, I had a really hard time connecting with her on an emotional level.  Sure, I wanted her to succeed and unravel the mystery surrounding her role in the succession, but I really couldn’t feel her emotions.  When she was sad I felt the same as when she was happy and in love.  Part of it is that this is a first novel so O’Neal doesn’t quite have that ability to write emotion into the story but the other part may be the target demographic.

Basically, The False Princess is an average novel that I would recommend to teens in the 12-14 age group.  O’Neal doesn’t talk down to her readers and the characters face some really terrifying obstacles on their way to uncovering the mystery.  I think younger readers will find Sinda and the others far more sympathetic than I did.  With all that said, this is not a bad novel and I’d even call it good.  It just wasn’t for me.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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My Interview with John Heldt (3)

John HeldtJohn Heldt is the author of the now-finished Northwest Passage series (The Mine, The Journey, The Show, The Fire and The Mirror).  This five-book series was his writing debut and they all focus on time travel and romance during some very exciting times in American history.  Read on to see our discussion about men writing from women’s points of view, saying goodbye to a series and what he would do differently now that’s he’s finished the series.


1. You’ve lived and breathed the Northwest Passage series for years. What’s it like to say goodbye to the series?

Like other authors who have parted with a series, I have mixed emotions. I’m excited about starting a new series but sad to see this one go. I grew attached to the characters and their stories and believe I could have done more with them. One of the things I enjoyed most about writing The Show and The Mirror, in particular, is that I was able to build on a previous book. I look forward to doing more of the same in future series.

2. Of all of the times you could have set The Mirror, why did you specifically choose 1964?

I chose 1964 because it offered opportunities that other years did not. Like 1941 in The Mine, it was a transitional year that was firmly rooted in two distinctly different decades.
Though music, fashion, and cars from the late fifties were everywhere, so were signs of coming change – particularly social change. With a presidential election, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Civil Rights Act, the Mississippi Burning tragedy, and the Beatles’ first North American tour, the year was also historically significant.

3. In the series you decided never to go into the nitty-gritty scientific explanation for time travel. Why?

Writing novels involves making choices, setting priorities, and acknowledging limits.

I decided at the start I would treat time travel as fantasy, rather than science fiction, because I wanted to put the focus on people and not machines. The thing I liked best about the Back to the Future series was not the DeLorean or the flux capacitor but rather how Marty McFly interacted with his ancestors. I wanted readers to see themselves not as scientists who volunteered for a highly technical time-travel mission but rather ordinary people who involuntarily traveled back in time by stepping into the wrong gold mine or restroom or haunted house.

4. Three out of five of the books you wrote have predominantly female viewpoints.
As a male writer, was it challenging for you to write from a female POV? What was
challenging about it?

For the most part, it wasn’t challenging at all. I grew up with sisters and female friends. I have a wife and two daughters, including one who is the same age as the twins in The Mirror. I’ve known strong, articulate, and resourceful women my whole life. Writing about such women in the Northwest Passage series was relatively easy. That said, I made a point of enlisting the help of several women in preparing each of the novels. Their assistance in making sure I got things right was invaluable.

5. Can you give us a hint about any future writing projects you’re taking on?

I have already started work on the next project, a five-book series of time-travel novels that will be structured much like the Northwest Passage series. My protagonists will interact with their ancestors in the not-so-distant past of twentieth-century America. The difference is that the protagonists in the new series will pass through a common time portal and travel beyond the Pacific Northwest.

6. Looking back on the series, was there anything you would have done differently either writing-wise or marketing-wise?

Yes. I would have written The Mine, The Show, and The Mirror as a trilogy and written
The Journey and The Fire as a separate series. I would have also paid more attention to point of view and description issues in the early books and perhaps made better use of advertising options in the first year. For the most part, however, I would have done things exactly the same. It’s been fun.

Book Blast: The Fallen by Lee French and Erik Kort

No one keeps secrets from her…
The Fallen
by Lee French and Erik Kort

Publication Date: January 26, 2014Series: The Greatest Sin #1

Genre: Fantasy


For hundreds of years, the Blaukenev clan has wandered across Tilzam, from one end to the other and back. Each wagon carries history, love, laughter, pain, sorrow, and secrets. Their greatest secret of all may be Chavali, the clan Seer.

damn her.  

With her gift/curse, nothing surprises her anymore, no one keeps secrets from her. She, on the other hand, has more than enough secrets to keep. Secrets of her own, secrets of her clan, secrets of the world, secrets she even keeps from herself. 

There are always people who want secrets. 
Some will do anything to get what they want.  

The Fallen is the foundation of the story of The Greatest Sin, of a world adrift from its God that desperately wants Her back. Chavali’s comfortable, predictable life will be ripped apart and burnt to ashes as she’s forced into the middle of that struggle. Change, she hates it passionately. It hates her right back. 

About Lee French and Erik Kort
Lee French lives in Worcester, MA with two kids, two mice, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She is an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.
Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  |  Pinterest

Erik Kort abides in the glorious Pacific Northwest, otherwise known as Mirkwood-Without-The-Giant-Spiders. Though the spiders often grow too numerous for his comfort. He is defended from all eight-legged threats by his brave and overly tolerant wife, and is mocked by his obligatory writer’s cat. When not writing, Erik comforts the elderly, guides youths through vast wildernesses, and smuggles more books into his library of increasingly alarming size.

Short Story: Lost in the Seven Worlds by Petronela Ungureanu

Lost in the Seven Worlds by Petronela Ungureanu(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Lost in the Seven Worlds is the debut work of Petronela Ungureanu, an avante-garde Romanian writer.

When a young woman finds herself captive in another world, she makes the mistake of falling for one of the disgraced beings. In the name of love, she is confronted with a most disturbing demand and faces a crucial decision. Will she remain lost in the Seven Worlds, or will she accept the challenge of a love beyond mortality?

[Full disclosure: I was given a free ebook copy of this short story by the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Petronela Ungureanu has one of the more beautiful, unique writing styles that I’ve encountered of late.  It’s wonderfully descriptive in an old-fashioned sort of way and you really feel like you’re immersed in her fantasy world.  In a longer piece than Lost in the Seven Worlds it would drag down the plot, but in a short story it just enhances the world she’s created.

From what little I could gather the world-building in this story is much more complex than could be contained in a short story.  I would love to learn more about the Daevas and their customs but short stories are, well, just too short.  The details that were included were all relevant to the story and were interesting but there just weren’t enough to make a fully realized world.

This is a great short story, it truly is.  The only problem is the story itself is far too complex for the medium.  In all honesty, this would be a great novel.  However, I have to judge it based on its format.  And the truth is, Lost in the Seven Worlds was more than a little confusing, especially at the end.  There was a huge twist at the end and although I read the story through a couple of times I still don’t understand it.  It’s nice to end on a bit of a cliffhanger but readers have to also understand what’s going on.

Overall, I think this short story was decent.  It’s just that the ending was a little too rushed.

I give this short story 3.5/5 stars.

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Giveaway: The Devil of Ponong Series by Jill Braden

The Devil's Concubine by Jill BradenToday I’m lucky enough to be doing a giveaway in conjunction with author Jill Braden and her publisher, Wayzgoose Press.  For my review of The Devil’s Concubine, her first amazing book, see here.  For my gushing review of her even more amazing second book, see here.  The fact that I gushed in both reviews should tell you all you need to know about how awesome Jill Braden’s writing is and how lucky you would be to win a copy of her book.  Just follow the Rafflecopter link below and spread the word!

This giveaway will run from today (September 23) until midnight on October 6.  Winners will be announced on the seventh and in addition to the prizes listed, there might be some more special swag thrown in.  Who knows?

a Rafflecopter giveaway