Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Save the Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody Book & Software Review

I received a free copy of this book and software in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

In a first here on my site, I have the unique opportunity to share my review of not only a book on writing that is considered to be a must-read for many aspiring writers and screenwriters, but to test out the amazing writing software that many use in their modern projects. Here are my thoughts on Save the Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody. 

Advertisements

The Synopsis

SAVE THE CAT!® by Blake Snyder is a popular screenwriting book series and storytelling methodology used by screenwriters, directors, and studio execs across Hollywood. Now, for the first time ever, bestselling author and writing teacher, Jessica Brody, takes the beloved Save the Cat! plotting principals and applies them to the craft of novel writing in this exciting new “workshop style” guide, featuring over 20 full beat sheets from popular novels throughout time.

Whether you’re writing your first novel or your seventeenth, Save the Cat! breaks down plot in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step method so you can write stories that resonate! This book can help you with any of the following:

Outlining a new novel

Revising an existing novel

Breaking out of the dreaded “writer’s block”

Fixing a “broken” novel

Reviewing a completed novel

Fleshing out/test driving a new idea to see if it “has legs”

Implementing feedback from agents and/or editors

Helping give constructive feedback to other writers

But above all else, SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL will help you better understand the fundamentals and mechanics of plot, character transformation, and what makes a story work! 

The Review

What really spoke to me about the book was as a novelist it was great to see how the process of storytelling from a more modern lens looked and felt. Applying the pattern that was discovered and applied to successful novels and screenplays to our own works was unique, and showcased the things that worked and the things that didn’t.

On top of that, the author takes readers through the important steps of developing and nurturing a story, from identifying the “hero” of the story to the genres being explored, the pitch that you’ll want to sell the story to readers, and the beats that can be touched upon throughout the narrative. The novel is thorough, detailed, and does an amazing job of not necessarily declaring one writing style over another to be “superior”, but instead guiding the writer in the process of discovering their own voice while still following a pattern of success.

As for the software itself, the ability to utilize the program for screenplays, television shows, and novels was a treat, and could even divide the novel into larger series overall. I decided to utilize my novel “The Legend of Electric Fusion”, a book I wrote years ago I am in the process of rewriting and utilized it for this software. 

The technology allowed me to start breaking down my characters more fully. Not only getting into more detailed descriptions of the characters, but their overall motivations and goals moving forward. This helped me to see a more clear path for the narrative to take moving forward. It is a truly organized, structured, and detailed path for those who follow the plotter style of writing than anything else. 

The Verdict

A must-read book and fantastic software that writers and readers alike will fall in love with. Motivating and inspiring, the book helps foster creativity and bring stories more fully to life than ever before. It is a great step in helping to hone the writer’s craft and give readers a chance to see into the complex process of developing an engaging novel. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

Advertisements

About Save the Cat!®

Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation.

Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at www.savethecat.com.

About the Save the Cat Structure Software

Save the Cat! Story Structure Software is adapted from the Save the Cat! methodology to help screenwriters and novelists unlock the fundamentals of plot and character transformation. The Story Structure Software is a virtual writer board with digital index cards to help map out your story against the 15 beats or plot points to your story. The software enables writers to track emotional shifts of characters from scene to scene, develop profiles and edit and version your story with ease.

You can purchase a subscription to the Save the Cat! Structure Software at Save the Cat’s website.

About Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

An Amazon #1 best seller with over 500 reviews, it’s the first novel-writing guide from the best-selling Save the Cat! story-structure series, reveals the 15 essential plot points needed to make any novel a success.

In this revolutionary novel-writing guide from the best-selling Save the Cat! series, novelist Jessica Brody demystifies each beat, making it simple to learn the complexities of storytelling. The best-seller also reveals the ten universal story genres to help you drill down into what makes your type of story work. Featuring sample “beat sheets” for hits from the likes of J. K. Rowling, Khaled Hosseini, and Stephen King, this practical guide also includes real-world advice on pitching your novel, plus the quirky, original insights (like the eponymous tip to “Save the Cat”) that make this series unique. By the end of this book, your own imaginative beats will combine to create a story that thrills readers from start to finish.

Print Length: 320 Pages

Genre: Writing References

Publisher: Ten Speed Press/Random House Publishing LLC

ASIN: B078VWDNKT

ISBN-10: 0399579745

ISBN-13:978-0399579745


Save the Cat! Writes the Novel
 is available as a print and e-book at 
Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

About the Author, Jessica Brody

Jessica Brody worked for MGM Studios as manager of acquisitions and business development before becoming an internationally best-selling author of more than fifteen novels for adults and teens including The Geography of Lost Things, The Chaos of Standing Still, A Week of Mondays, and Better You Than Me. She travels the country teaching Save the Cat! workshops to novelists.

Advertisements

Blog Tour Dates

April 27th @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Visit the Muffin today and you can read an interview with the Save the Cat team as well as enter to win a copy of the book Save the Cat! Writes the Novel and a one-year subscription to their software Save the Cat! Structure Software.

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

April 28th @ Pro Writing Aid

Make sure you visit Michelle’s post over at Pro Writing Aid and read her review of the save the Cat Structure Sofware.

https://prowritingaid.com/en/Blog/Author/183/Michelle-Cornish

April 29th @ Karen Brown Tyson

Make sure you visit Karen Brown Tyson’s blog today and read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

https://karenbrowntyson.com/blog/

April 30th @ Karen Brown Tyson

Visit Karen’s blog again and you can read a guest post about the impact of Save the Cat! on creative culture.

https://karenbrowntyson.com/blog/

May 1st @ Sunflowers & Bluebirds

Visit Jess’ blog today and you can read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

https://sunflowerstobluebirds.wordpress.com/

May 2nd @ Jessica Samuel’s Blog

Make sure you visit Jessica’s blog today and you can read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel and her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

https://jessicasamuelsauthor.com/

May 3rd @ Help me Naomi

Visit Naomi’s blog today and you can read her review of Save the Cat! Structure Software. Just in time for CampNaNoWriMo!

https://helpmenaomi.com/blog/

May 4th @ Her First Mile

Visit Alyshia’s blog today and make sure you read her review of Save the Cat! Structure Software.

http://herfirstmile.com/

May 5th @ Halfway to It

Visit Jeanna’s blog (and Instagram!) today and read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

https://www.halfwaytoitblog.com/

https://www.instagram.com/halfwaytoitblog/

May 6th @ Editor 911

Make sure you visit Margo’s blog today and read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

https://editor-911.com/

May 7th @ Brooke’s Reviews and Sweeps

Visit Brooke’s site today and make sure you read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

http://www.brookereviewsnsweeps.com/

May 7th @ Sandy Kirby Quandt

Stop by Sandy’s blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

www.sandykirbyquandt.com

May 8th @ Quill and Books

Stop by Katheryn’s blog and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

https://quillandbooks.com/

May 9th @ Choices Blog

Visit Madeline’s blog today and you can read a fantastic Save the Cat! guest post about how to choose the best idea to write.

http://madelinesharples.com/

May 10th @ Margay Leah Justice Blog

Visit Margay’s blog and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software and Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

http://margayleahjustice.blogspot.com/

May 11th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Make sure you stop by Beverley’s blog and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

May 12th @ Reading Whale

Visit Caitlin’s blog and read her review of the Save the Cat! Writes the Novel and of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

https://readingwhale.com/

May 13th @ Mint Miller Writes

Visit Mint Miller’s blog today and you can read a review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

May 14th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony Avina’s blog today and you can read his review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 15th @ Chapters Through Life

Visit Danielle’s blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat Structure Software.

http://chaptersthroughlife.blogspot.com/

May 16th @ Coffee with Lacey

Grab some coffee and make sure you stop by Lacey’s blog today and read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

http://www.coffeewithlacey.com

May 17th @ Leslie L. McKee’s blog

Visit Leslie’s blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software and the Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

https://leslielmckee.com/blog/

May 18th @ World of My Imagination

Visit Nicole’s blog today and you can read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

https://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com/

May 19th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Visit Beverley’s blog again and you can read a guest post about how software can help organize and plot your story.

http://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com

May 20th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony Avina’s blog and you can read his review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 21st @ L. M. Harley’s Blog

Visit Laura’s blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

http://lmharleywriter.com/blog.html

May 22nd @ Fiona Ingram’s Blog

Visit Fiona’s blog today and you can read her insights into the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

May 23rd @ Knotty Needle

Visit Judy’s blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

http://knottyneedle.blogspot.com/

May 24th @ Tyrean Martinson’s Blog

Visit Tyrean’s blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

https://tyreanswritingspot.blogspot.com/

May 25th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony Avina’s blog and you can read his interview with the Save the Cat! team.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 27th @ Amanda Zieba’s Blog

Visit Amanda’s blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

http://amandazieba.com/

May 28th @ It’s Alanna Jean

Visit Alanna’s blog today and you can read a guest post by the Save the Cat team about writing genres vs. audience genres. Don’t miss it!

http://itsalannajean.com/

May 28th @ Shayla Raquel

Make sure you stop by Shayla’s blog and read her review of the book Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

https://shaylaraquel.com/

May 29th @ Thoughts in Progress

Visit Mason’s blog and read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/

May 30th @ Make Me a Success

Make sure you stop by Kirsten’s blog and read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.

https://www.makemeasuccess.co.uk/blogs/

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Music From Another World by Robin Talley Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two young penpals discover a far deeper connection than either realized during a time of the fight for social change in author Robin Talley’s “Music From Another World.”

Advertisements

The Synopsis

It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others—like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom—and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.

A master of award-winning queer historical fiction, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley once again brings to life with heart and vivid detail an emotionally captivating story about the lives of two teen girls living in an age when just being yourself was an incredible act of bravery.

The Review

This book is unique in that it speaks of the fight for equality for the LGBT community in the ’70s, yet can easily speak to the struggles facing that very same community today. The battle against hatred and violence not only from the outside world but the people who are supposed to love you most is felt strongly throughout this novel from both protagonists and those in their lives. 

Novels need to have an emotional component to a tale such as this, to keep the readers invested and to showcase the very real struggles facing the LGBT community, and the author does a fantastic job of creating a setting and characters that do just that. The conflicted feelings of identity, love, and friendship during this era that demonized anyone who didn’t fit into a specific box really drove the narrative forward, crafting a unique story that really speaks to the heart. 

The Verdict

An emotional evenly paced read with an impactful cast of characters, author Robin Talley’s “Music From Another World” is a stellar read that captures a gripping era of social change and the fight it took to get there. The brutal struggle of being surrounded by religious-based hatred towards an entire group and fighting to understand themselves, the protagonists bring readers on a whirlwind journey that many can get behind. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

Advertisements

About the Author

Robin Talley studied literature and communications at American University. She lives in Washington, DC, with her wife, but visits both Boston and New York regularly despite her moral opposition to Massachusetts winters and Times Square. Her first book was 2014’s Lies We Tell Ourselves. Visit her online at robintalley.com or on Twitter at @robin_talley.

Social Links:

Author website: https://robintalley.com/

Facebook: @robintalleywrites

Twitter: @robin_talley.

Instagram: @robin_talley.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6469490.Robin_Talley

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Music-Another-World-Robin-Talley/dp/1335146776

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/music-from-another-world-robin-talley/1131130958#/

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335146779

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Music-from-Another-World/Robin-Talley/9781335146779?id=7833509719461

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/music-from-another-world/id1458725405

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Robin_Talley_Music_from_Another_World?id=yEy7DwAAQBAJ

Advertisements

Excerpt

Excerpted from Music from Another World by Robin Talley. © 2020 by Robin Talley, used with permission by Inkyard Press.

Tuesday, June 7, 1977

Dear Harvey,

I hope it’s okay for me to call you Harvey. In school, when they taught us to write letters, they said adults should always be addressed as “Mr.” or “Mrs.,” but from what I’ve read in the newspaper, you don’t seem much like the adults I know. I’d feel wrong calling you “Mr. Milk.”

Besides, it’s not as if I’m ever going to send you this letter. I’ve never kept a diary before, but things have been getting harder lately, and tonight might be the hardest night of all. I need someone I can talk to. Even if you can’t answer back.

Plus, I told Aunt Mandy I couldn’t join the prayer circle because I had too much homework. Tomorrow’s the last day of school, so I don’t have any homework, but she doesn’t know that. If I keep writing in this notebook, maybe she’ll think homework is really what I’m doing.

I guess I could write to my new “pen pal” instead. That might count as homework. It would be closer than writing a fake letter to a famous San Francisco homosexual, anyway, but I can’t handle the thought of writing to some stranger right now.

Technically you’re a stranger, too, Harvey, but you don’t feel like one. That’s why I wanted to write to you, instead of “Dear Diary” or something.

It’s ironic, though, that my pen pal lives in San Francisco, too. I wonder if she’s ever met you. How big is the city, anyway? I read a magazine article that said gay people could hold hands walking down the street there, and no one minds. Is that true?

Ugh. The prayer circle’s starting over. Brett and Carolyn are leading the Lord’s Prayer again. It’s probably the only prayer they know.

We’ve been cooped up in the church basement for five hours now—my whole family, plus the youth group, plus a bunch of the other Protect Our Children volunteers. Along with Aunt Mandy and Uncle Russell, of course. The results from Miami should come in any minute.

You probably already know this—wait, who am I kidding? Of course you know, Harvey—but there was a vote today in Florida. They were voting on homosexuality, so our church, New Way Baptist, was heavily involved, even though we’re on the opposite side of the country. Everyone in our youth group was required to volunteer. I worked in the office Aunt Mandy and Uncle Russell set up in their den, answering phones and putting together mailings and counting donations to the New Way Protect Our Children Fund. We had bake sales and car washes to raise money to send to Anita Bryant, too.

You know all about Anita Bryant, obviously. You’re probably just as scared of her as I am. Although, come to think of it, whenever I see you in the newspaper, you look the opposite of afraid. In pictures, you’re always smiling.

Don’t you get anxious, having everyone know? I’m terrified all the time, and no one even knows about me yet. I hope they never find out. 

Maybe I should pray for that. Ha.

Okay, the Lord’s Prayer is over and now Uncle Russell’s making everyone silently call on God to save the good Christians of Florida from sin. I hope I can keep writing without getting in trouble.

Ugh, look at them all, showing off how devout they are. The only two people in this room who aren’t clasping their hands in front of them and moving their lips dramatically are me and Aunt Mandy, but that’s because I’m a grievous sinner—obviously—and Aunt Mandy keeps peeking out from her shut eyes at the phone next to her.

I’m not sure how much you can concentrate on God when you’re solely focused on being ready to snatch up the receiver the second it starts to shake. Maybe she’ll grab it so hard, it’ll crush to a pulp in her fist like one of Anita Bryant’s fucking Florida oranges.

I wonder what you’re doing tonight, Harvey. Probably waiting by your phone, too. Only you’re in San Francisco, and if you’re praying, you’re praying for the opposite of what Aunt Mandy and everyone else in our church basement is praying for.

It seems pointless to pray now, though. The votes have already been cast, so we’re just waiting to hear the results. There’s a reporter from my aunt and uncle’s favorite radio station in L.A. sitting at the back of the room, ready to interview Uncle Russell once we know what happened. Even though we basically already do.

My mom showed up at church tonight with a box of balloons from the supermarket, but Aunt Mandy wouldn’t let anyone touch them until the announcement, so at the moment the box is sitting in the closet under a stack of old communion trays. The second that phone starts to ring, though, 

I just bet Aunt Mandy’s going to haul out that box and make us all start blowing up those crappy balloons.

I wonder if you’ve heard of my aunt. She wants you to. She knows exactly who you are, of course—you’re her enemy.

Which makes me your enemy, too, I guess. I’m not eighteen, and it’s not as if I could’ve voted in an election in Miami even if I were, but I’ve still spent the past two months folding up comic books about the destruction of Sodom to mail out to churches in Florida.

I’m a soldier for Christ. That’s what Aunt Mandy calls me, anyway. And since I do everything she says, she must be right.

Writing to you instead of praying with the others is the closest I’ve ever come to rebelling. That’s how much of a coward I am, Harvey.

I wish I had the nerve to tell my aunt to go shove it. That’s what I’d really pray for—the nerve, I mean. If I thought prayer ever helped anything.

Shit, the phone’s ringing. More later.

Tammy

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf Blog Tour

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman dealing with a pregnancy and her career as a police officer has her world turned upside-down when the unsolved murder of her best friend finds new evidence, and leads her into a whirlpool of suspects who are far closer to her than she could have imagined, in author Heather Gudenkauf’s “This Is How I Lied.” 

Advertisements

The Synopsis

With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

The Review

A truly gripping thriller that takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride, author Heather Gudenkauf’s “This Is How I Lied” begins as a personal story of a young woman seeking justice for her long lost best friend, and takes a dramatic turn that puts every character in the spotlight. 

The brilliant use of flashbacks through the eyes of the victim to the modern-day investigation and the secrets that fuel all of the characters make this such an engaging narrative. Just when readers have a bead on who the killer is, the author drops a new piece of the puzzle that turns the investigation on its head. The author does a marvelous job of portraying the narrative in a very cinematic way, allowing readers to envision the events of the story playing out perfectly. 

The Verdict

A must-read thriller and mystery, “This Is How I Lied” by Heather Gudenkauf is a fantastic narrative that deserves to be read. Evenly paced, thought-provoking, and shocking in its delivery, this is a one of a kind read that fans of the mystery and thriller genres will not be able to get enough of, especially in the final shocking moments of the book’s end. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

Advertisements

About the Author

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running. 

Buy Links: 

Harlequin

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @hgudenkauf

Instagram: @heathergudenkauf

Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor

Goodreads

Author Q&A

1. What is your writing process like? 

I approach each of my novels with the goal of being a plotter – someone who explicitly organizes and outlines her books – but it never quite works out that way for me. I make notes and outline the plot but ultimately the characters take over and do what they want to anyway. My process is messy and meandering. Thankfully, I have a brilliant editor who is able to see through the weeds and pull out the best parts of my plots and keep me on the right path. This is How I Lied completely evolved from my initial intentions. The characters changed, the plot shifted and the final ending poked its head up near the end of revisions and I couldn’t be happier with the results. 

2. Which came first: the characters or plot line?

For me, the two go hand in hand. The basic plot line comes first, and close behind comes the characters. It doesn’t matter how suspenseful of a plot I develop, if the right characters aren’t there to mold the story and carry it forward, it won’t work. Before I begin writing, I attempt to give my characters rich backstories. Often many of these details don’t make into the novel, but by fully developing their personalities and biographies, it helps keep me in tune with them as I write. Knowing the characters’ likes and dislikes, their foibles and strengths helps me to honestly and accurately determine their motivations and the decisions they make as they move through the novel. 

3. How do you come up with your plots?

I’m a news junkie! I’ll scan newspapers and websites and a story will catch my eye. It can be the smallest detail or a broader theme but if the idea sticks with me and keeps harassing me to write about it, I know I’m on the right track. For my novel Little Mercies, it was an article about a social worker who ended up on the other side of the justice system because of alleged negligence with her caseload. From this I created an entirely new story about a social worker who was fighting for her own child. In This is How I Lied, I was intrigued by news stories that dealt with the use of familial DNA to solve cold cases and it became a key detail in the novel’s resolution.

4. Do you use music to help set a mood/tone for your books? 

I do listen to music as I write. It varies based on the story and what I think the characters might listen to. By curating these playsets, it helps me get into their mindset. As I worked on Maggie’s sections in This is How I Lied I listened to a lot of Avett Brothers and Lumineers. For Nola, I listened to classical music and hard rock – she’s an interesting mix. As for Eve, since she was sixteen years old and living in the 90s, I listened to plenty of Nirvana and Beck. 

5. Where did the idea for this story come from? 

Before I started writing This is How I Lied, I read I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, about the author’s investigation of The Golden State Killer who, for decades, terrorized northern California. This book both terrified and fascinated me and I became intrigued by how modern technology was being used to close old cold cases. For my project, I thought it would be interesting to explore how this might play out in a small town where the perpetrator thought the truth behind the crime would never be discovered. 

As I was writing the novel, I learned about the developments in a 40-year-old cold case not far from where I live where familial DNA was used to ultimately convict the killer. Amazing!

6. Do you find inspiration for your novels in your personal life? 

I often get asked what my childhood must have been like because of the twisty thrillers I write. Thankfully, I can say that I had a blissfully uneventful childhood with parents and siblings that loved and supported me. For me, the inspiration from my own life comes in the settings of my novels – the Mississippi River, farmland, the woods and bluffs – all found in Iowa. In This is How I Lied, the town of Grotto is loosely based on a nearby town until I moved to this part of Iowa, I never realized that we had cave systems.  Visitors to the state park, can literally step back thousands of years. The limestone caves and bluffs are beautiful, haunting and have something for everyone. You can take a casual stroll through some of the caves and have to army crawl through some of the others. Old clothes and a flashlight are a must! The caves made the perfect backdrop for a thriller and I was excited to include them in This is How I Lied.

7. What is the one personality trait that you like your main characters to have and why? 

In looking back at all my main characters, though they are all different ages and come from different walks of life, I think the trait that they all seem to have in common is perseverance. I’ve had characters battle human evil and demons of their own creation but it doesn’t matter what traumatic events they have been through or the challenges they will face, they manage to make it through. Changed for sure, but intact and hopeful for the future.

8. Why do you love Maggie and why should readers root for her? 

I do love Maggie! As a police detective, Maggie has dedicated her adult life to helping others and is a loving daughter, sister and wife and is expecting her first child. This doesn’t mean that Maggie is perfect. Like all of my protagonists, Maggie is complicated and flawed and has made some big mistakes, but ultimately she is doing the best that she can.

9. What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?

As a former elementary school teacher, I had absolutely no insights into the publishing world beyond what I saw on television and in movies – which portrayed it as a dog-eat-dog world. I have to admit, as a new author, I was very intimidated. But to my delight –  and relief – the people I’ve encountered along the way– my agent, editors, publishing teams, fellow authors, booksellers and readers – all have been nothing but supportive, encouraging and kind.

10. What is coming up next for you? 

I just finished the first draft of my next novel, a locked-room mystery about a reclusive writer working on a true crime book when a snow storm leaves her trapped inside her remote home, setting off a series of events that lead to a stunning revelation. It was so much fun to write!

11. Has quarantine been better or worse for your writing? 

It’s been such a scary, unsettling time but I’ve found writing a nice distraction and a great comfort during this extended time at home. I’ve been able to turn off the news and get lost in my manuscript or other writing projects. It’s a lot like reading – a much needed escape from the real world.

12. What was your last 5 star read? 

Julia Heaberlin has a new book coming out this August called We Are All the Same in the Dark and it has surged to the top as one of my favorite reads of the year. It has everything I love in a great thriller: a beautifully written small town mystery, with multilayered, unforgettable characters and a twisty plot. It was absolutely mesmerizing.

Advertisements

This Is How I Lied Book Excerpt

Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe

Monday, June 15, 2020

As I slide out of my unmarked police car my swollen belly briefly gets wedged against the steering wheel. Sucking in my gut does little good but I manage to move the seat back and squeeze past the wheel. I swing my legs out the open door and glance furtively around the parking lot behind the Grotto Police Department to see if anyone is watching.

Almost eight months pregnant with a girl and not at my most graceful. I’m not crazy about the idea of one of my fellow officers seeing me try to pry myself out of this tin can. The coast appears to be clear so I begin the little ritual of rocking back and forth trying to build up enough momentum to launch myself out of the driver’s seat.

Once upright, I pause to catch my breath. The morning dew is already sending up steam from the weeds growing out of the cracked concrete. Sweating, I slowly make my way to the rear entrance of the Old Gray Lady, the nickname for the building we’re housed in. Built in the early 1900s, the first floor consists of the lobby, the finger printing and intake center, a community room, interview rooms and the jail. The second floor, which once held the old jail is home to the squad room and offices. The dank, dark basement holds a temperamental boiler and the department archives.

The Grotto Police Department has sixteen sworn officers that includes the chief, two lieutenants, a K-9 patrol officer, nine patrol officers, a school resource officer and two detectives. I’m detective number two.

I grew up in Grotto, a small river town of about ten thousand that sits among a circuitous cave system known as Grotto Caves State Park, the most extensive in Iowa. Besides being a favorite destination spot for families, hikers and spelunkers, Grotto is known for its high number of family owned farms – a dying breed. My husband Shaun and I are part of that breed – we own an apple orchard and tree farm.

 “Pretty soon we’re going to have to roll you in,” an irritatingly familiar voice calls out from behind me.

I don’t bother turning around. “Francis, that wasn’t funny the first fifty times you said it and it still isn’t,” I say as I scan my key card to let us in.

Behind me, Pete Francis, rookie officer and all-around caveman grabs the door handle and in a rare show of chivalry opens it so I can step through. “You know I’m just joking,” Francis says giving me the grin that all the young ladies in Grotto seem to find irresistible but just gives me another reason to roll my eyes.

“With the wrong person, those kinds of jokes will land you in sensitivity training,” I remind him.

“Yeah, but you’re not the wrong person, right?” he says seriously, “You’re cool with it?”

I wave to Peg behind the reception desk and stop at the elevator and punch the number two button. The police department only has two levels but I’m in no mood to climb up even one flight of stairs today. “Do I look like I’m okay with it?” I ask him.

Francis scans me up and down. He takes in my brown hair pulled back in a low bun, wayward curls springing out from all directions, my eyes red from lack of sleep, my untucked shirt, the fabric stretched tight against my round stomach, my sturdy shoes that I think are tied, but I can’t know for sure because I can’t see over my boulder-sized belly.

“Sorry,” he says appropriately contrite and wisely decides to take the stairs rather than ride the elevator with me.

“You’re forgiven,” I call after him.  As I step on the elevator to head up to my desk, I check my watch. My appointment with the chief is at eight and though he didn’t tell me what the exact reason is for this meeting I think I can make a pretty good guess.

It can’t be dictated as to when I have to go on light duty, seven months into my pregnancy, but it’s probably time. I’m guessing that Chief Digby wants to talk with me about when I want to begin desk duty or take my maternity leave. I get it.

It’s time I start to take it easy. I’ve either been the daughter of a cop or a cop my entire life but I’m more than ready to set it aside for a while and give my attention, twenty-four-seven to the little being inhabiting my uterus.

Shaun and I have been trying for a baby for a long, long time. And thousands of dollars and dozens of procedures later, when we finally found out we were pregnant, Shaun started calling her peanut because the only thing I could eat for the first nine weeks without throwing up was peanut butter sandwiches. The name stuck.

This baby is what we want more than anything in the world but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m a little bit scared. I’m used to toting around a sidearm not an infant.

 The elevator door opens to a dark paneled hallway lined with ten by sixteen framed photos of all the men who served as police chief of Grotto over the years. I pass by eleven photos before I reach the portrait of my father. Henry William Kennedy, 1995 – 2019, the plaque reads.

While the other chiefs stare out from behind the glass with serious expressions, my dad smiles showing his straight, white teeth. He was so proud when he was named chief of police. We were all proud, except maybe my older brother, Colin. God knows what Colin thought of it. As a teenager he was pretty self-absorbed, but I guess I was too, especially after my best friend died. I went off the rails for a while but here I am now. A Grotto PD detective, following in my dad’s footsteps. I think he’s proud of me too. At least when he remembers.

Last time I brought my dad back here to visit, we walked down this long corridor and paused at his photo. For a minute I thought he might make a joke, say something like, Hey, who’s that good looking guy? But he didn’t say anything. Finding the right words is hard for him now. Occasionally, his frustration bubbles over and he yells and sometimes even throws things which is hard to watch. My father has always been a very gentle man.

The next portrait in line is our current police chief, Les Digby. No smile on his tough guy mug. He was hired a month ago, taking over for Dexter Stroope who acted as the interim chief after my dad retired. Les is about ten years older than I am, recently widowed with two teenage sons. He previously worked for the Ransom Sheriff’s Office and I’m trying to decide if I like him. Jury’s still out.

Excerpted from This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf, Copyright © 2020 by Heather Gudenkauf 

Published by Park Row Books

Posted in reviews

The Faithful (#2) – A Mimosa Tales Adventure by Linda Thackeray Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The folks of Mimosa must endure a harrowing journey as they face a shocking enemy in an attempt to save lives in author Linda Thackeray’s “The Faithful”, the second novel in the Mimosa Tales Adventure series. 

Advertisements

The Synopsis 

“Well, she’s the greatest pig alive. About a month ago, she saved my wife and kids and me from our burning house by waking us up in the middle of the night just in time to escape without any harm! She’s like one of the family. A couple of weeks ago, our youngest fell into the river, and the pig dang fished him out just in time to save him from drowning! She’s one of a kind.”

“Okay,” the travelling salesman accepted the accomplishment of this particular porcine but hadn’t had his question answered. “But that don’t explain what happened to her legs?”

“Well now,” the farmer declared. “When you got a pig that great, you don’t eat her all at once.”

These are the words ringing in Marshal Kris Jensens’s mind when he and the lawmen of Mimosa, led by Winn Tuner follow the trail of missing homesteaders, thought to be lost deep in Apache Country. Driven to the ominous Owl Valley where not even the Apache dare walk, they discover the homesteaders may have met a fate worse than death by a monstrous evil festering within its deepest reaches.

Now it’s up to Kris and his men to reach civilisation and warn everyone, that what lies in Owl Canyon has been there for almost 300 years and is hungry…

The Review

A grittier tale that ups the ante of the first novel, author Linda Thackeray has crafted a shocking tale that blends history, horror, and the old west into unique narrative readers will instantly fall in love with. The story puts sheriff Kris Jensen and his allies in the clutches of a dangerous threat, one that defies human morality in ways none of the characters thought possible. 

The author does an outstanding job of using the narrative and story to highlight the cultural differences between so many different civilizations, and how savagery exists on all sides, as well as empathy. The conquests made by Europeans is felt deeply as the results of their conquest is felt in what befell a specific group of people fleeing their bloody invasion, and what those events drove them to become. 

The novel’s greatest strength comes in the character development, especially between Kris and Winn, who have endured a rift in their friendship since the events of the first novel. The chemistry and pain between them are put to the test when faced with the unspeakable horrors waiting for them on this rescue mission. 

The Verdict

A must-read novel, this is a fantastic sequel to an addicting Old West-style novel series. A fast-paced, engaging and one of a kind read, author Linda Thackeray’s “The Faithful” is a powerful follow-up narrative and heightens the character’s growth overall moving forward. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

Advertisements

About the Author

Born in a village in Malaysia and delivered by underpaid midwife, and Ann, an irritable new mother (who wouldn’t be after 48 hours in labour?), X was named by a deranged grandmother with too much creativity for her own good. Once out of her pain-induced stupor, Ann decided to give her new daughter a proper middle name to avoid the risk of being put into a home later in life.

And so, she was called Linda.

Linda was an unremarkable child, save a few notable incidents, the discovery that a pot lid is not a substitute for Wonder Woman’s tiara (five stitches), four-year old don’t need to shave (no stitches but lots of toilet paper) and utility truck drivers are not necessarily qualified operators of their vehicles (seventy stitches).

At eight, Linda received religious enlightenment when she saw Star Wars at the Odeon Theatre and hence began her writing career.

For many years, the cages of various pets in the Thackeray household were littered with pages from Linda’s scribblings. Subjects usually ranged from whatever science fiction show was on television or at the movies. There was lots of Star Wars.

At 17, Linda moved to Sydney, Australia and was disappointed it was not occupied by Paul Hogan types with big knives and croc skin jackets but pot-bellied blokes with zinc cream and terry towel hats. Linda’s father (also known as that bloke who buys me stuff to piss mum off when she’s mad at him) settled in the town of Young, a community of 6000 people with no movie theatre.

Linda survived this period in the wilderness by raising kangaroos and writing original works but eventually got saddled down with the necessities of life and though she continued to write, work came first. Work, HBO, comic books and rent. It’s a kaleidoscope.

Even the kangaroos left out of boredom.

In 2014, Linda decided to start writing seriously again. Mostly because Australia’s strict gun laws make it very difficult to ‘go postal’ in the workplace. Moving to Woy Woy, which is Aboriginal for ‘Big Water’, she’s dipped her toes into the Indie pool and found she needs a pedicure. Her books are labours of love and championed by her friends on Facebook.

Eventually Creativia Publishers, appalled by Linda’s inability to conduct any marketing, offered to publish her books out of sheer exasperation.

Supported by two cats named Newt and Humphrey, she spends her days trying to write novels while having unclean thoughts about Michael Fassbender and Jason Statham, sometimes together.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0867RKWG5/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0
Author Site: https://lindathackeray.wixsite.com/authorsite

Posted in Comic Book Roundup

Weekly Comic Book Roundup #11

Justice League, Volume 1: The Totality

(Justice League (2018) #1)

by Scott Snyder (Goodreads Author), Jorge JimenezJim Cheung (Illustrations), Doug Mahnke

The Synopsis

A brand-new era begins here! Comics legends Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung launch the Justice League into a cosmos-shaking mystery that will draw out their most terrible foes…in ways our heroes couldn’t possibly imagine!

The League was forced to make an impossible decision…and now its time to face the consequences! The returning Martian Manhunter struggles to protect the team from an incoming threat that will shatter the world as they know it, while a familiar face strikes out on a dark path…

Spinning out of the cataclysmic events of Dark Nights: Metal and the universe-defining No Justice, the core members of the Justice League–Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and more–are finally reunited for an adventure for the ages!

One of the most critically acclaimed authors of his generation finally scribes DC’s flagship title in Justice League Vol. 1! Collects Justice League #1-7.

The Verdict

A fantastic new era in Justice League comics, fans are going to love the return of Martian Manhunter, and the more chaotic, darker and visceral storytelling thanks to the return of the new Legion of Doom. Pushing the heroes to the limit, fans are in for a treat with breathtaking artwork, a large cast of characters, and new teammates that will bring new chemistry to the team overall. The writers do an excellent job of pushing the ever-growing mythology of the DC Multiverse as the Totality leans into an ever darker history that the heroes never realized existed before. A must-read!

Advertisements

Cyborg, Volume 1: The Imitation Of Life

(Cyborg (2016) #1)

by John Semper Jr. (Writer)

The Synopsis

A part of DC Universe: Rebirth!

Half-man, half-machine and longtime member of the Justice League, Cyborg faces his faces a fatal systems crash over his latest indentity crisis: Is he truly more dead than alive?

Vic Stone is about to get a real-life 404 error when his father doesn’t recognize him and cybernetic implants that saved his life seem to be stripping away the last bits of his humanity. Will Cyborg’s human side win out? Or will he find out he’s really just a machine who thinks he’s a man?

From John Semper Jr., one of the minds behind the hit ’90s TV show Spider-Man: The Animated Series, comes Cyborg’s next adventure in his very own solo series!

CollectingCyborg 1-6, Rebirth

The Verdict

A well written narrative that explores a character often reserved for team-up storylines, Cyborg shines brightly as the reluctant hero who must embrace his powers, his changed life and the role he must play in his home of Detroit. With a fantastic plot growing between a long held secret of his father’s and the complex relationship Cyborg and his father have make this a one of a kind read that fans of the Rebirth era will love. 

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Communication Breakdown

(All-New Guardians of the Galaxy (Collected Editions) #1)

by Gerry Duggan (Goodreads Author) (Writer), Aaron Kuder (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

A new era of cosmic adventure begins! The Guardians of the Galaxy have taken off into space once more on their biggest and weirdest misadventures yet! Kicking things off with the boldest heist they’ve ever pulled, Star-Lord, Rocket and company blast their way through the galaxy -with the peacekeepers of the Nova Corps hot on their tail! And soon enough, they find themselves caught in a war between the Collector and the Grandmaster! Will there be any room to explain why Groot can’t grow any bigger, what Gamora is searching for, or why Drax has sworn off violence?! You bet there will – the all-new Guardians of the Galaxy has space for all your Marvel Cosmic needs!

COLLECTING: ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2017) 1-2, 4, 6, 8, 10, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2017 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 1

The Verdict

Fun, adventurous and a great example of team building mixing with character development for the team that has become Marvel’s favorite group of A-Holes, (yes I included an MCU reference. You know you were thinking it too). Exploring the ramifications of Secret Wars on the new Marvel universe, the humor and unique artwork of this series brings the original chemistry of the Guardians into the ever-growing landscape of the universe as a whole. A great read for Marvel fans. 

The Man of Steel

(Man of Steel (2018) #1-6)

by Brian Michael BendisAlex Sinclair (Illustrator), Ivan Reis (Illustrator), Joe Prado (Illustrator), Jason Fabok (Illustrator), Evan Doc Shaner (Illustrator), Steve Rude (Illustrator), Ryan Sook (Illustrator) , Wade Von Grawbadger (Illustrator), Kevin Maguire (Illustrator), Adam Hughes (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

After revolutionizing superhero storytelling in such classic titles as Ultimate Spider-ManDaredevil and New Avengers, acclaimed comics author Brian Michael Bendis brings that same magic to the DC Universe with this explosive new Superman saga. Featuring the work of artists including Jos Luis Garca-Lpez, Ivan Reis, Jason Fabok, Evan “Doc” Shaner, Steve Rude, Ryan Sook, Kevin Maguire and Adam Hughes–The Man of Steel marks the beginning of an amazing new era for Superman!

A remorseless killer called Rogol Zaar has arrived on Earth, bringing wide-scale death and destruction in his wake. Only Superman and his cousin, Supergirl, stand between Zaar and the completion of his mission–the utter annihilation of the Kryptonian race.

But even as Kal-El and Kara struggle to contain this new existential threat, the world’s greatest superhero faces a completely different challenge in his adopted home city of Metropolis, where Clark Kent still lives and works–but without his wife and son.

The stage is set for a reckoning like nothing Superman has ever faced, and everything that matters to the Man of Steel hangs in the balance!

Collects The Man of Steel #1-6 and stories from DC Nation #0 and Action Comics #1000

The Verdict

A great new chapter in the world’s most iconic superhero’s story ever told. Superman’s life as a father and husband changes greatly, and not only do fans get a chance to explore what happened to change that, but they witness the emergence of a deadly new foe for Superman, Rogol Zaar. Exploring a new take on the destruction of Krypton brings about a new level of change personally for the Man of Steel, and his place in the DC Universe takes on a whole new meaning in this amazing story. 

Advertisements

Star Wars: Darth Maul

(Star Wars: Marvel Miniseries)

by Cullen Bunn (Goodreads Author), Luke Ross (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

Raised on hate, fear and anger…steeped in the ways of darkness…and trained to kill! Darth Maul’s time as apprentice to Darth Sidious has long been cloaked in shadows – now at last his tale of revenge is revealed! It’s a story of rage unleashed as Darth Maul prepares for his first encounter with the hated Jedi. But when a Jedi Padawan is captured by sinister forces, why is Maul so determined to fi nd her? And what role will a band of bounty hunters, including Cad Bane and Aurra Sing, play? Get to know the galaxy’s deadliest Zabrak like never before!

COLLECTING: DARTH MAUL (2017) #1-5

The Verdict

One of the Star Wars universe’s greatest threats and a truly fan favorite character/villain, Darth Maul’s story and evolution as a character went from a one-film villain to an integral figure in the shaping of the entire modern day Star Wars universe. Getting to explore his growth into the villainous Sith he was in the Phantom Menace film to the deep seated hatred he grew to have for the Jedi overall helps showcase his character’s mindset and arc overall in the films, televisions shows and comics overall. A must read for all Maul fans. 

Weapon X, Vol. 1: Weapons of Mutant Destruction Prelude

(Weapon X (2017) (Collected Editions) #1)

by Greg Pak (Goodreads Author), Greg Land (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

Decades ago, the Weapon X Program produced the deadliest mutant killers on the planet. Now, with more research, more funding and more Adamantium at its disposal, the all-new Weapon X Program isn’t just experimenting on mutants anymore…it’s eradicating them – all of them -using killer cyborgs that can hide in plain sight. Now it’s up to the uneasiest of all alliances -between Old Man Logan and his once bitter enemy Sabretooth – to hunt down the revived Weapon X program and stomp it out before it gets any stronger. They’ll need a whole lot of luck and maybe that’s where Domino comes in? But what could make Weapon X and its mysterious new director turn their sights on the Totally Awesome Hulk? The Weapons of Mutant Destruction are coming – and there will be blood! COLLECTING: WEAPON X 1-4, TOTALLY AWESOME HULK 19

The Verdict

A great story bringing together some of the best X-Men characters out of the infamous Weapon X program, fans are treated to a look at one of the toughest, most brutal fighters in the Marvel Universe. Fantastic artwork showcases the harsh reality of the team’s missions, and the dark humor that some of the team infuses into their dialogue that keeps the character interactions flowing smoothly. A great read in the modern Marvel era. 

Cable, Volume 1: Conquest

(Cable (2017) (Collected Editions) #1)

by James Robinson (Text), Carlos Pacheco (Illustrator), Ed BrissonThony Silas (Illustrator), Zac Thompson (Goodreads Author), Lonnie Nadler (Goodreads Author), Clayton Crain (Illustrator), German Peralta (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

Speak softly – and carry a huge gun! Cable, everyone’s favorite time-traveling, cyborg-armed walking mutant arsenal, is embarking on a brand-new mission…with all of time in the balance! When Cable picks up the trail of a threat in the timestream, he sets off on a high speed, history-spanning chase to save reality as we know it. From prehistory to the modern day, whether it’s a six-gun duel at high noon or a sword fight high above the kingdom, Cable is the only man who can keep history from unraveling! The fate of all reality rests on his massive shoulder pads…and that’s exactly the way he likes it!

COLLECTING: CABLE 1-6 

The Verdict

Time travel is one of the oldest traditions in the X-Men portion of the Marvel Universe, and no one does it better than Cable. Getting the first adventure in this comic series to focus on Cable taking on a powerful new foe who is disrupting the time stream is a fun way of getting readers back into the complex world of Cable as a hero. The artwork is amazing and the story does a marvelous job of combing the past and the future into a seamless storyline, making for a fun read. 

Advertisements

Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 1: Life of X

(Astonishing X-Men (2017) (Collected Editions) #1)

by Charles Soule (Goodreads Author) (Text), Jim Cheung (Illustrator), Mike Deodato (Illustrator), Ed McGuinness (Illustrator), Carlos Pacheco (Illustrator), Ramon Rosanas (Illustrator), Mike del Mundo (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

Charles Soule and a stellar roster of superstar artists unite to put the Astonishing back in the X-Men! An ancient evil is attacking the world’s most powerful minds. It will have them by the time you finish this sentence, and a moment later, it will have us all. A band of X-Men discovers the truth behind the threat, but is there any time left for Psylocke, Old Man Logan, Bishop, Archangel, Fantomex, Rogue and Gambit? In an action-packed X-epic, they must head to the astral plane in pursuit of…the Shadow King! But in this brain-bending mindscape, not everything is as it seems, and reality is a relative concept. Will this impromptu squad of X-Men be able to contain the chaos from spilling out into the world?

COLLECTING: ASTONISHING X-MEN 1-6

The Verdict

One of the most dangerous villains in the Marvel Universe makes a play for the Marvel Universe in this first outing of the Astonishing X-Men in the modern Marvel era. A unique collection of mutant heroes come together to face the powerful Shadow King, with the British government hot on their heels after a powerful attack in London. The rise of one of the most iconic and powerful X-Men comes full circle in this story, and introduces a new era of the X-Men universe as well. A must read. 

Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire

(Rogue & Gambit #1-5)

by Kelly Thompson (Goodreads Author), Pere Pérez (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

Everybody’s favorite X-couple is reunited! And boy, are they not happy about that… Kitty Pryde must send Rogue and Gambit on an undercover mission to find a group of kidnapped mutants. What they discover on this mission will shock them. But will it also bring them closer together…? It’s a high-stakes adventure caper that only the two hottest X-Men can deliver!

COLLECTING: ROGUE & GAMBIT 1-5

The Verdict

A fantastic character study of one of the X-Men’s most popular relationships, this series does an excellent job of delving into the history and power of the romance between Rogue and Gambit. From their first moment together and beyond, the two struggle as Rogue feels the relationship is broken beyond repair, while Gambit remains hopeful their love is stronger than the past. In the midst of this character dive comes a new mystery of disappearing mutants, a creepy retreat in paradise and experimentation gone wrong. A great mix of old school and new school artwork brings this story full circle. A must-read X-Men series!

Advertisements

Blue Beetle, Vol. 1: The More Things Change

(Blue Beetle (2016) (Collected Editions) #1)

by Keith GiffenScott Kolins (Artist, Co-Plotter), J.M. DeMatteisRomulo Fajardo Jr. (Colourist), Josh Reed (Letterer)

The Synopsis 

Bonded to the Blue Beetle Scarab, teenager Jamie Reyes has no idea what he’s doing with one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. But he’s in luck, because his predecessor–Ted Kord–is back in the DC Universe and here to serve as the young hero’s mentor! Alongside fellow teen hero Doctor Fate, this duo will have to learn how to be heroes on the fly!

Written by the legendary Keith Giffen (Legion of Super-Heroes) and illustrated by Scott Kolins (The Flash), Blue Beetle is back for a new generation as a part of DC Universe: Rebirth!

CollectingBlue Beetle 1-6, Rebirth

The Verdict

A great blending of generations of heroes, the story explores the Rebirth era origins of the mysterious Scarab that turns teen Jamie Reyes into a powerful force of nature known as the Blue Beetle, and the mentoring done by longtime hero and Justice League adjacent hero Ted Kord, aka the Blue Beetle. The contentious relationship between mentor and mentee brings the fight with the Scarab to the forefront, and the inclusion of longtime DC powerhouse Dr. Fate makes this comic filled with magic. A great DC Rebirth era series. 

Posted in reviews

The Melody Of Three (Evercharm Trilogy #1) by S.D. Reeves Review

 I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A sorcerer long banned from Liverpool receives a mysterious summons, and discovers a world turned upside down in author S.D. Reeves’ novel, “The Melody of Three.”

Advertisements

The Synopsis

Sorcerer Christaan De Rein’s return to Liverpool does not go well, starting with the fact that his trusted apprentice, Higgins, dies on the way. Then again, Higgins dies a lot. Of course, Rein doesn’t expect to be welcomed with open arms after being banished for nine years, but a cryptic summons from The Musician herself cannot go unanswered.

But when Rein arrives all is in chaos. People with fairy blood are turning up dead. The Forum Magicae is undone and the Curators sieged.

And in another world altogether, where Earth is just a legend, a girl named Niena and a cursed lyre hold the key to saving both realms. Or destroying them.

The Review

The author does an amazing job of creating a vast, complex, and engaging mythology that fans of the fantasy genre will absolutely love. The established world in this novel pairs greatly with the characters that bring humor, engagement, and heart to the story overall.

The author’s greatest strength lies within the atmosphere and setting of the narrative, with each chapter eloquently painting a picture of each location of the narrative. From the busy streets and gloom of Liverpool to the reality-bending realm of Fairhome, the author really does an excellent job of putting readers into the worlds of this magical novel. The only critic would be that so much emphasis is made on setting and description that sometimes the novel is slow-paced, but the powerful narrative helps to balance this out overall.

The Verdict

A lengthy, powerful narrative that keeps readers on the edge of their seat as they dive headfirst into this brand new narrative, author S.D. Reeves novel “The Melody of Three”, the first in the Evercharm Trilogy, is a must-read dark fantasy novel that perfectly sets up a brand new series. An open-ended final chapter leaves readers wanting more, perfectly setting up this ever-growing narrative. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 8/10

Advertisements

About the Author

Stephen Reeves was born in 1980 in Huntsville, Alabama, but grew up in a small community just on the edge called Madison. His writing career began during a boring math class in college and has blossomed over the last couple of decades into something decidedly not boring. His works have been published in numerous zines including The Blotter, Chantwood, Yellow Chair Review, and The Writers Drawer. Stephen has also reviewed books for Oxford University Press, including Micheal Newtons Victorian Fairy Tales.

Curses of Scale is his debut novel, written over the course of four years in the inspirational country of Switzerland, where he now resides with his wife, two cats, and an obsessive Pomeranian.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07YGSWLKX

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17067943.S_D_Reeves

Posted in reviews

Mr. Moonbeam and the Halloween Crystal by Ryan Cowan Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young boy learning to hone his unique magical abilities must stop a powerful evil witch on Halloween Night before the human world is forever changed in author Ryan Cowan’s novel “Mr. Moonbeam and the Halloween Crystal.”

Advertisements

The Synopsis

Elliott attends his third-grade class like any other boy, except that Elliott isn’t like any other boy. Endowed with magical powers, Elliott belongs to a secret world called Moonstone – and trouble is brewing. When the evil witch Noir steals The Halloween Crystal, it’s up to Elliott and his third-grade teacher, Mr. Moonbeam, to stop Noir from invading the non-magical world on Halloween night. But can Elliott learn to master his powers in time?

Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Pre-Teen Fiction, Ebook (Bronze) 2019

The Review

A truly engaging and magical read, author Ryan Cowan has crafted a masterful tale of magic, mythology, and wonder in this brand new fantasy-driven children’s book. The story really shines through in this tale, giving readers new mythology between the world of magic and the world of humanity that brings all of the supernatural and magical creatures of lore into the forefront. 

Rather than having a human falling into the world of magic and crafting a tale of discovery, the author does a great job of exploring a cast of characters well versed in the world of magic. What really stood out however was the author’s ability to create a narrative that highlighted the in-class relationship between a teacher and a student as the teacher attempts to impart knowledge that will help the student grow into the roles they were meant to be in life. 

The Verdict

This was a fast-paced, easy to read tale of supernatural entities, a clash between evil witches and good witches, and the impact magic has on two worlds as a rising witch discovers his unique abilities while a seasoned witch must find a way to stop an impending apocalypse. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy of author Ryan Cowan’s “Mr. Moonbeam and the Halloween Crystal” today! 

Rating: 10/10

Advertisements

About the Author

Ryan Cowan grew up in a small town called Middleport, Ohio. He currently lives in Hawthorne, CA. As a teacher with almost 20 years of experience, Ryan has taught all grades from K-6th. He currently works as an assistant principal for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Mr. Moonbeam and the Halloween Crystal is his first children’s book. A magical story with complex themes, Mr. Moonbeam and the Halloween Crystal highlights the difficulties of teaching while also chronicling the important problem solving relationship between a teacher and his student. A sequel is currently in the works.

Ryan has degrees and/or credentials in education from the following universities: Marshall University (BFA Music Theory), UCLA (M.Ed. Urban Education), California State University Los Angeles (Multiple Subject Teaching Credential), and California State University Dominguez Hills (Administrative Services Credential).

Posted in reviews

The Beast Of Wheeler Ridge By Chris Stevenson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A shocking twist on the classic forbidden love theme comes with a dangerous new threat and science gone wrong in author Chris Stevenson’s novel “The Beast Of Wheeler Ridge”. 

Advertisements

The Synopsis

Wolf girl gone feral…

A DNA experiment gone horribly wrong…

A beast who will stop at nothing.

Seth Anson, a lovelorn forest ranger, never thought that he would shoot the first eligible woman he met after his divorce. Nor did he think that he would fall in love with her after nursing her back to health. But he certainly isn’t prepared to find out that she is the result of a DNA cloning experiment gone horribly wrong and, is in fact, a hybrid human/wolf.

It all comes to a head atop Devils Tower Wyoming.

The Beast of Wheeler Ridge examines the lurid morality issues that are dealt with in The Island of Doctor Moreau, while exploring the theme of forbidden love as can be found in Beauty and the Beast, only with the gender rolls reversed.

Contains mild language and suggestive themes

The Review

A fantastic blend of science fiction and horror thriller, author Christ Stevenson has brought to life a one of a kind reimagining of the classic werewolf tale. Exploring the horrors of genetic experimentation gone wrong, the author does a great job of finding a natural balance between the horror elements of the story with the romance and character growth of the cast of characters. 

It was refreshing to get such a unique take on the werewolf genre, exploring ancient creatures from a long-forgotten age being brought back by science, and evolving from there. The idea of restoring lost creatures back into modern society and the experiments pushing past boundaries to see human and animal hybrids becoming a reality made for a unique twist on the genre, making the story easy to engage with. 

The Verdict

An evenly paced, action-fueled, and tense romantic sci-fi thriller, author Chris Stevenson delivers a powerful story in “The Beast Of Wheeler Ridge”. Discovering the meaning behind what makes someone a monster and what makes them “human” blends with the forbidden love theme in a remarkable tale that will keep readers invested throughout. Be sure to grab your copies today!

Rating: 10/10

Advertisements

About the Author

Check out my blog GUERRILLA WARFARE FOR WRITERS (SPECIAL WEAPONS AND TACTICS):

http://guerrillawarfareforwriters.blo…

Christy’s Young Adult Fabuliers:

https://christysyoungadultimagineers….

About me

Gender Male

Industry Science

Occupation Novelist and Science Writer

Location Sylvania, Alabama, United States

Links Wishlist

Introduction Been writing for 32 years, publishing novels, non-fiction books, radio horror plays, short stories, reviews, interviews, poetry and thousands of non-fiction automotive articles. I’m on my third agent, and have had 10 books and twenty-two short stories published, beginning in 1988. Writing Credits and History BOOK CREDITS: Auto Repair Shams and Scams (Forward–Ralph Nader), 1990, Price Stern & Sloan, Los Angeles–226 pages, non-fiction, consumer warning book. Garage Sale Mania, 1988, Betterway Publications, Crozet, Virginia–190 pages, non-fiction book—1988. Word Wars, a SF novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—May, 2007. Once Upon a Goddess, a Fantasy novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—January, 2008 Planet Janitor—Custodian of the Stars, a SF novel sold to Engage Books, May 2009 Gate Walker, a Paranormal Fantasy, sold Lyrical Press—January, 2009. The Wolfen Strain, a fantasy thriller sold to LBF Books, February 2009

The Girll They Sold to the Moon, Intrigue Books

Blackmailed Bride to Melange Satin Romance. Screamcatcher: Web World by Melange Books.

Interests Hiking, paleontology, Ufos, cryptozoology, bigfoot, astronomy, lake monsters, ancient Egypt, archeology, geology

Favorite Movies Blade Runner, Time Cop, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Logun’s Run, Transformers, The Time Machine, Kickass

Favorite Music REM, Abbaa, When in Rome, Steve Miller Band, SF and fantasy soundtracks.

Favorite Books Icerigger, Virgin Planet, Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Lord of the Flies, Black Marble, Close Encounters, The Island, Black Marble, Dune, Riverworld, The Mote In God’s eye

How many books have I published? 10 to date, with three out on agent subs, and five more in the wings ready to go.

Amazon Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Harold-Stevenson/e/B001K8UUBK

Christy’s Website:  https://christysyoungadultfabuliers.com/

Blog:  http://guerrillawarfareforwriters.blogspot.com/

Posted in reviews

The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen by Ray Smith

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A woman tells her story of being a middle aged divorcee and discovering her true self in the midst of a passionate love story in author Ray Smith’s novel, “The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen”. 

Advertisements

The Synopsis

“You’ve seen the woman in the photo. The woman screaming . . .”

So begins the story of Molly Valle, who at forty-eight thinks she knows all that life has to offer a single, middle-aged woman—namely, men’s dismissal and disrespect. But when handsome activist John Pressman arrives in her Mississippi hometown, he challenges her self-doubt along with nearly everything else in her world. Soon, Molly discovers a strength and beauty she never knew she had—and a love so powerful, it can overcome the most tragic of consequences.

The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen is a love story, an adventure novel, and a self-realization journey. It reignites the truth that many women—and men—have unconsciously extinguished: you are special and worthy of love, and it’s never too late to make your dreams come true.

The Review

This is a wonderfully written and relevant novel in today’s age, as readers are taken through a romance set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement. The author has created a cast of characters that are memorable and worth investing in, and really captures the essence of that era. 

The author excels at two things in this novel. The first being their amazing writing skills in bringing descriptive imagery to life and making the novel feel alive on the page. The second would be the author’s ability to transcribe the atmosphere and culture around the civil rights era and the revelations it often left about those surrounding us at that time. 

The Verdict

A true page-turner, author Ray Smith has created a fast-paced read that will immediately grab the reader’s attention and creating a tension-filled atmosphere with this romance blooming before the reader’s eye caught in the center of it all. Heartwarming, heartbreaking, and everything in between, this is a must-read for anyone who enjoys drama, romance, and the backdrop of the civil rights movement. Be sure to get your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

Advertisements

www.themagnoliathatbloomedunseen.com