Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another Review!

July is going to be the month of reviews it seems. And yes I know it's still June. I'm just getting a head start. Today I'm reviewing Kevin James Breaux's Soul Born. It's a very classic style fantasy story full of magic and swordplay.

Everything Opal had ever wanted was now within her grasp. After years of training under the High Council of Mages she had finally been given the opportunity to show her skills and to earn the respect of her teachers. She would help her paramour, Karn, defeat the invading warlord, Mustaffa, who threatened to destroy the entire kingdom.

But though Karn was a mighty warrior and wanted nothing more than to defeat the evil invader, he also knew something inside him was missing. The memories of his past seemed broken and twisted, as if they had been lived by someone else. And has he and Opal worked to bring down the rising darkness, Karn was sure that there was more evil afoot than just the enemy army. Someone else was pulling the strings and a deeper conflict set in motion years before was about to overtake them all.

* * * * * * * * * *

Soul Born by Kevin James Breaux is the first book in a three book series. It is a classic epic fantasy full of elves, wizards, and fairies. I actually won an ecopy of the book in a giveaway on Fantasy-Faction forums that Kevin was good enough to run a few weeks back. Kevin is also a Fantasy-Faction staff member and can be found on Twitter as @KevinBreaux.

I have to admit that the first thing that attracted me to this book was the awesome cover art, and I found as I began the story that the beautiful woman depicted was the main character Opal. Opal is a mage and one of my favorite things about this book is the way magic works and how it is depicted. Magic in this world is full of color and movement, with each type of spell represented by a different color. Magic is also very scarce and can only be performed by a select few.

The characters in this story are also unique, and even after getting three-quarters of the way through the book there is still more to learn about each one. The story itself twists and turns as it progresses, keeping you guessing as to who is on the side of good and who is on the side of evil. At the end of this book there are still questions to be answered, making the reader wonder which way the story will continue in book two.

I think the story and perspective at times seems to jump around a bit, and I would have liked to know a little more about some of the side characters. I give Soul Born 3 stars, but only because I’m not a big fan of stories where the point of view switches back and forth a lot. If you don’t mind that type of story, then it’s probably more like a 3-1/2 to 4 star book. Overall, I think this was a good quick read and I would recommend this to those who like classic sword-and-sorcery style fantasy stories.

For disclosure purposes, I won a copy of Soul Born from the author in a giveaway contest, but chose to review it on my own. Winning the book did not influence my opinion in this review.
In other news I started shopping for an agent last night. Now to be fair, I'm not very good at shopping in general. And while the idea of having an agent and someday getting published is exciting, it's also very frightening!

So far I have a list of about ten people who represent the fantasy/scifi genre. The next step is to get my query/pitch setup for each person and send them out. I can honestly say that I haven't been this nervous/excited in a long time. Hopefully I'll be sending out my first batch of queries by the end of next week. If any of you have an suggestions or hints or warnings for me, please let me know. I can use all the help I can get!

Hope you all have a great 4th of July weekend, even those of you not in the US. Because technically it will be July 4th for you as well. ;)

Stay safe! And happy reading!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reviews and Writing

My review of The Last Unicorn is up on Fantasy-Faction! I LOVE this story. The prose Mr. Beagle uses is amazing. If you've never read it I highly suggest it! And rather than gush about it again, I'll just let you read the review.

In a forest that time wouldn’t touch was a creature who would live forever. A creature of immortal beauty and purity: a unicorn. She spent her days admiring her own loveliness and watching as the curious creatures in her forest went about their short and frantic lives. Time meant nothing to her, and the outside world was merely a dream inside the eternal spring of her forest. That was, until one day two hunters passed through searching for game, but found none. The first warned the second that they should hunt elsewhere, as this was the home of a unicorn. The second scoffed at his friend, saying there were no unicorns, they were myths that mothers told their children at bedtime, nothing more. But the first insisted that here, in this forest, was the last.

The unicorn had seen men before and listened to their stories as they traveled through her wood, but never before had she been called the last. Could it really be that she was alone in the world? That the rest of her people had disappeared from the earth? The conversation haunted her until she decided she must find out for herself. She needed to discover if she truly was the last.

She set out into the world alone, appearing to all who see her as nothing more than a beautiful white mare. But then her path is crossed by two people who know what she truly is. The first was Schmendrick, a bumbling magician trying desperately to come into his magical talents. The second is Molly Grue, a simple peasant woman who had been waiting to see a unicorn her whole life. Together the three travel over hills and valleys looking for the others where ever they may be.

Their journey takes them into the barren country of the wicked King Haggard, whose castle holds both a curse and a secret. Will they be able to learn the whereabouts of her people before they are discovered? Or will they succumb to the curse themselves?

* * * * * * * * * *

This is one of my favorite stories ever. It was the first fantasy book I ever read, though I had watched the movie many times before. The Last Unicorn is unique among the stories I’ve read, as the main character isn’t human or even humanoid, nor does she have a name until almost halfway through the book. But the thing that amazes me every time I read this book is the prose. The way Mr. Beagle puts words together is enchanting. The sentences flowing into paragraphs are as close to poetry as you can get without actually writing a poem. But the descriptions are not out of place nor too flowery either. They just feel right and add a touch of magic to even the mundane parts of the story.

The world that this book takes place in is our world, specifically Robin Hood’s Europe. But there is real magic here and real magical beasts. The people of the world believe in them, though these creatures are almost never seen anymore and are starting to fade into fairy tales. It seems as though this may be the last generation to treat the supernatural as truth rather than myth. That gives the story a very grounded feel and makes the disappearance of the unicorns that much more upsetting.

I had a hard time writing this review, as I love this story so much. While trying not to talk your ears off or go all fangirl on this book is tricky, not giving away the story is even harder. I would do a disservice to you if I mentioned some of my favorite parts or quoted the poem that cursed the king’s castle. So in favor of letting you discover this story on your own I will leave you with this. The Last Unicorn is a very unique dark fairy tale, the likes of which I think have yet to be written. If you enjoy fantasy, a good story, and beautiful prose, read this book. You will not be disappointed.

Also, if you have the means to watch the movie I would highly suggest it as well. The screenplay was written by Peter S. Beagle and follows very closely to the book. I would just add here, that even though it is a cartoon it is not for young children. There are some rather scary scenes and I would caution parents to watch it first and see whether their kids would mind the darker parts. I didn’t mind them, but I was a very odd child. Not that you couldn’t have guessed that part.
I started writing again last night, after a week off, and it felt great! I've figured out where my characters are headed and I can't wait to finish the scene I was working on.

Also my husband has two interviews next week, so hopefully one of them pans out and he can get back to working again! Keep us in your thoughts and prayers and I'll let you know how everything goes.

Have a great day everyone! :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Books! :D

This has been a good book month! I have so far won three contests for free books! :D I won two ebooks from Lindsay Buroker (@GoblinWriter on Twitter): The Emperor’s Edge & Dark Currents! I won an ebook of Soul Born by Kevin James Breaux (@KevinBreaux on Twitter) in the Fantasy-Faction forums!

And also I won an ARC of Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis in an Angry Robot Books contest! Which is great because my husband stole my Kindle to read the Dresden Files.

My new shiny book!

On top of that, Ashley Barnard (@wckdwriter on Twitter) was kind enough to send me an ecopy of her book Shadow Fox to review!

I am a happy book monkey! Now I just have to find time to read and review them all. Looks like I'm going to have a very busy July! :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011


One of the best things I found about becoming a writer, is meeting other writers. Between Twitter and Fantasy-Faction, I have met some amazingly cool people! One of the people I've had the pleasure to get to know is Amy Rose Davis (@AmyJRoseDavis on Twitter). Amy is a self-published author currently working on the second novel in her series The Taurin Chronicles. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of her first book Ravenmarked and will be beta reading the second book Bloodbound!

Ravenmarked is a great story with some amazing characters and I can't wait to read the second installment in the series! Here is my review of Amy's book.

When Braedan, the heir regent of the kingdom of Taura, decides to declare himself king after his father’s death, he finds more than just a few upset nobles standing in the way of his plan. A true heir to the long-vacant throne has appeared; an heir whose coming has been prophesied to bring peace to the kingdom and to unite all its people once more. Luckily for her, the young woman Mairead slips through his fingers, escorted away by a hired sword named Conner.

But Conner is not what he appears to be. Under his rough exterior is man of earth and magic; a half-breed adopted by the forest tribes and born of the magical race known as the Brae Sidh. But he carries with him an even darker secret - Conner is Ravenmarked. Marked by the Morrag, the avenging spirit of earth, to kill those who she chooses should die. And as the spirit threatens to turn him into a weapon of untamed power, Conner fights to finish his mission to get Mairead away from not only the king, but also the growing powers of evil that pursue them both.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ravenmarked by Amy Rose Davis is the first book in the five-book series The Taurin Chronicles. The book follows a full cast of vivid characters each trying to make their own place in the quickly changing land of Taura. I was lucky enough to get a copy of this story from the author, who is also a staff member on Fantasy-Faction. You may know her as the author of our Writer Wednesday articles. This is the first full length novel she has published.

Going into this book I knew very little about the story, but became hooked in the very first chapter! Amy has created a unique world with an interesting magic system and great political intrigue all tied together by the prophesy of a coming queen. She has managed to create a compelling epic fantasy without using the standard tropes usually associated with one. And while there are no elves or dwarves, the supernatural creatures of her own design will make you want to find out more about this extraordinary new world.

The thing I enjoyed most about this book was the characters. Each one is deep and real. And whether you’re reading about the usurping king, the fleeing true heir or the roughish hired sword, you want each person to succeed even though some of their goals conflict with those of the other characters. I can always tell it’s a good story when I start rooting for the bad guy during his chapters and rooting for the good guy during theirs.

One of the only things I disliked about this story was the fact that it is (once again) book one of a series and when I got to the end, the story had not come to completion. There was also a good deal of romance in the book. Not that romance is a bad thing, and it did fit the story perfectly, but I’m not normally a romance reading type. However if you are anti-romance this book might not be a good fit for you. Aside from that I’d recommend this to anyone who likes epic fantasy.

The sequel, Bloodbonded, will be available in December 2011.

For disclosure purposes, I was given a copy of Ravenmarked by the author, but chose to review it on my own. Receiving the book as a gift did not influence my opinion in this review. I have also been given the opportunity to beta read Bloodbonded and will be reviewing the finished copy when it is completed later this year.
I would also suggest that you check out Amy's weekly Writer's Wednesday articles on Fantasy Faction. Here's a link to her latest in article: Story Structure: In the Beginning.

Have a great day everyone! :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I almost forgot! In and amongst all the bad news I had a bit of good news! I won the April Writing Challenge on Fantasy Faction! :D The theme was spring inspired. The story also had to include themes of hope and warmth. The story I entered is actually based in the world I'm writing my books in, but is set hundreds of years earlier. You can see all the entries here. And here's the piece I entered.

Mela stood on the edge of the massive plateau staring out at the dark horizon. The ground far below appeared flat and even, but the sound of breaking waves in the distance broke the illusion. The sun would rise soon over the water and send its golden light into world once again. And Mela would be there to see it. Mela had to see it.

The cold wind whipped past her into the ancient forest at her back. The first birds were already awake and gracing the trees with their sweet songs. Mela heard something scurry into a bush at her side, but she didn’t turn to investigate. The sky fey, Sunil, had told her to watch as he left and to continue watching until the first rays of sun breached the surface of the ocean. Mela had been standing rooted to her spot for hours, determined to finish the last wish of her former master.

Another gust of wind blew up from the Flatlands brushing a tear from her eye and tossing her dark hair about her shoulders. The wind didn’t seem to care that the fey were gone. Neither did the forest or the birds. Mela brushed the cold tear from her cheek and added a ragged sigh to the twisting breeze.

“No one cares,” Mela said still staring at the horizon, “that’s why they left. People think they have no use for essence magic; they’d rather rely on technology to save them. But wild, untended magic is a dangerous thing, and the only beings who knew its secrets have finally abandoned humanity. We are lost, and yet the wind continues to blow and the birds continue to sing, as if nothing has changed; as if we can carry on without them.”

Sunil hadn’t told Mela why she must watch the sunrise. He hadn’t told her where the fey were going or what she was to do now that they’d left. Part of her hoped the sun’s light would cut through her body like Sunil’s last words had done. That the first light of spring would be the last she’d ever see, and that her spirit would stay forever watching the horizon and waiting for the fey to return.

The thought sent a shiver down her spine. Mela shifted her feet and felt the frost covered grass crunch under her boots. It was cold and her mind’s wanderings weren’t helping her repel the icy air. She rubbed her arms to warm herself, but the wind bit through her shirt as if trying to thwart her efforts.

The sky was starting to lighten and Mela could just make out the waves of the sea crashing against the sandy shore. She had thought that she would be too far off to smell the salt air, but even at this great distance she could hear the rhythmic crashing of the waves and the smell of the ocean drifting up the side of the plateau, giving the forest an otherworldly feel. It seemed the lighter the sky became the more clearly she could sense the ocean. The sounds and smells of the sea mixed with the deep earthy tones of the forest were tossed together by the ever present breeze. Mela had the urge to close her eyes and take in the sensations without the distraction of the view. But Sunil had given her an order and she could not tarnish his memory by disobeying him. So she waited; for the sun, for spring, and to complete her final task.

“How can I go on without my master? Without the essence?” Mela thought, as another tear rolled down her cheek. “My whole life was learning the balance and understanding the ways of magic and the fey and how to use it to help my people. Now I have nothing. Nothing but the sunrise and the wind.”

As if in answer, the wind blew straight up from the cliff face, startling Mela from her thoughts. She almost looked down to see where the wind had come from, but stopped herself just in time.

“You won’t distract me from my task,” Mela said to the breeze. “You are a trickster, but I won’t be fooled by you. The essence of the wind has no power over me. Go bother someone else!”

One last gust of wind blew past Mela into the woods and then the breeze fell silent. The whole world suddenly seemed tense as if the forest itself was holding its breath. Then a small bit of the horizon sprung to life and the golden rays of spring’s first sun leapt up from the sea into the sky. The light was blinding and Mela had to concentrate to keep from blinking. She took a single step forward and recited the verse Sunil had taught her.

“The sun has risen from the depths and touched the sea and sky. And with this I give one last breath and bid the fey goodbye. We stand alone to keep the day and push away the night. Grant us one last boon oh sun and bless us with your light.”

With that Mela closed her eyes, letting the warmth of the sun cover her face and chase all traces of winter from the air around her. She realized quickly that the warmth she was feeling was far greater than it should have been. And that the heat seemed to be coming not from the sun before her but from inside her very being! She opened her eyes and saw the world covered in the glow of magic; essence floating out of the forest and into the sky before her carried by the playful breeze. Sunil had not abandoned her completely; he’d given her a parting gift. He’d given her the gift of magic!

Mela took one last look at the rising sun, and then collapsed to her knees with a great sigh of relief. She would continue in her master’s footsteps and would save her people from the world and themselves. She again had a purpose, a link to the essence, and more importantly she again had hope. Smiling Mela picked up a dried leaf and let the wind carry it from her hand, watching as the blue-green essence magic blew it off into the distance, over Flatlands and into the sea beyond.
There were some really great entries in April, so I was happily surprised that I won. I'm thinking of entering this month's contest as well. This month's theme is storms! You can check out the specifics here if you're interested in entering. This months contest runs till June 30th. All you need to enter is a Fantasy-Faction account, and if you don't have one, it's free to sign up!

Well that's it for now! I'll try to remember to be back soon! ;)

Have a great day! :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rollercoaster of Life

There have been quite a few ups and downs for my family of late. The biggest down being my husband lost his job. Luckily at the moment he has a few leads and hopefully he'll be back to work soon. But having him around all day has thrown the household completely for a loop! Not only have I not been blogging much, but I haven't had time to write much either. I was really hoping to finish my second book by now, but it looks like that's not going to happen till next month at the earliest.

The one thing I have had a lot of time to do is think and plan. I now know where this story is going and have a good idea of how to end it. I've also plotted out the next two or three scenes. All I have to do now is write them down.

So here's hoping you’re all doing well and that the next part of this rollercoaster is an up part. :)

Rollercoaster Fine Art Print by janeheller