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Book Review #4 – The Megarothke

I was six years old when I was inexplicably allowed to watch Alien. I say inexplicably because I grew up in a strict house, where science fiction and fantasy weren’t always allowed. When I ask my mom how I was able to watch this film, and so young, she usually scoffs and says, a bit disdainfully, “Don’t look at me, your father liked that crap.”

Whatever the reason for me getting to watch Alien at such a young age, it sparked a love of science fiction horror in me. While I still watch many movies and short films in this genre, I’ve strayed from reading it. I have to admit, I haven’t picked up a book that wasn’t high/urban fantasy in years and it wasn’t until fellow writer and friend, Robert Ashcroft contacted me asking if I’d like a copy of his first book did I get back into reading sci fi horror.

And damn, after such a long drought from this genre, “The Megarothke” welcomed me home with open, bloody, mechanical arms.

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The Megarothke is set in 2048, seven years after “The Hollow Wars”, and follows Theodore “Theo” Adams as he and the last 50k people claw their way through a war with machines just to stay alive. There’s a beast lurking just below the city of Los Angeles, and the small team set out to search and destroy the Megarothke will do what it takes to save the last of humanity.

Through a series of time jumps and unsettling quotes at the beginning of each chapter, the story of how The Hollow Wars” came to be, how the world has changed and just who or what the Megarothke is, unfolds with every spine tingling chapter.

What did I love about this book?

Ashcroft’s ability to build a solid, believable world, interwoven with a complex timeline is well above par. He doesn’t waste time going into too much depth, or leaving things out, and avoids flowery language to try and get some of his more complex ideas across. Not only does this make the reader fall into the world of The Megarothke, but it makes it easy to relate to Theo. While Theo is intelligent, he’s an average guy and he explains things as such. This trait also creates a great conflict later, when you’re introduced to his wife, and you get an amazing clash between characters.

I also enjoy how believable everything is. It’s not too much of a stretch to see certain aspects of Ashcroft’s world coming to pass, and since I’m a firm believer in “science fiction could one day become science fact”, it’s an unsettling black mirror held up to today’s society. There’s a fine line between too much technology and just the right amount, and Ashcroft makes the reader ask “How far is too far?” And let me be clear to note here, I don’t mean when it comes to a more accepting transworld, as there are several trans characters in this novel, but the use of technology until it swallows everything that makes us human.

Ashcroft’s military and philosophy knowledge also extremely evident. There isn’t one scene that makes me go “Wait a second, how real is that?”. It’s evident he’s a man with a military background, as well as being someone who knows what their talking about when it comes to philosophy.

Lastly, I loved the dark humor salt and peppered in throughout the novel. I even laughed outright at a few parts and scared my dog as I read this into the long hours of the night. And yes. I did in fact stay up past midnight just to read this.

What might not work for other readers?

While I don’t mind a story that starts at one point and then jumps back a few years, I know a few readers who have a problem with this form of storytelling. I think Ashcroft handled his timeline beautifully, and if people who don’t like “7 years earlier” trope can get over this, they’ll have a great time.

Overall Rating?

I would most definitely buy this book in hard back, and go out of my way to get it signed.

 

You’ll like The Megarothke if…

you’re fans Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson, Westworld, Blade Runner/it’s source material Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Black Mirror, or if you enjoy the of the work that comes out of Oats Studios (in fact, I’d be the biggest supporter if they made a film adaptation of this with Ashcroft).

Keep your eye out for this fantastic novel, coming out in February 2018. You’ll be up all night just to try and finish this refreshing addition to the Science Fiction genre.

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Book Lovers’ Monday – What I’m Reading

Welcome to my first “Book Lovers Monday”, where you can expect to find calls for favorite novels, book reviews, and author interviews.

Today’s Book Lover’s chat is about the books I’m reading and what I currently think of them.

I’m not the type of person who can read one book at a time. I like starting between two to five and then work my way through them like a kid with too many choices of cake, eating a bite of each one before I decide which one to devour completely.

Right now, I’m on a serious high fantasy kick. I’ve been toying with a story that’s like the Dragon Age franchise meets The Last Unicorn, with a sprinkle of Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Rampant series. So, to give me some inspiration, I took the advice of my best friend and one very helpful Barnes and Noble employee and found the following.

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1. The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan

Recommended to me by my best friend, and then a coworker when she found out I was looking for high fantasy novels.

Where am I at? – Page 14
Thoughts so far – As enjoyable as the first 14 pages can be. I like the author’s writing style and his religion and world layout is well built.

 

2. Dreamer’s Pool – Juliet Marillier619nuraf2bll-_sx308_bo1204203200_

Recommended to me by a Barnes and Noble employee I talk with from time to time. While she’s not a writer, she’s a huge fan of the processes, and helping up and coming writers. She suggested I try Dreamer’s Pool after I said I enjoyed Tamora Pierce as a kid.

Where am I at? – Page 6
Thoughts so far – Starts with Blackthorn at the lowest of low, a great place to hook your reader and I’m definitely curious where she plans on taking it.

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3. The Stolen Throne – David Gaider

Recommended to me by no one, just my weird love with the Dragon Age universe. I’ve been hooked on the video games since I first played Dragon Age: Origins, and after playing through Inquisition I needed more of Thedas.

Where am I am? – Page 144

Thoughts so far – It’s a little rough, if I’m being completely honest. It reads like a book by someone who writes video game scripts, not book manuscripts, but I have to admit, I still really love it. It’s probably because I’ve got a soft spot for the games, so if you haven’t played them I’d say you probably could skip putting this one on your reading list.

 

 

What books are you reading right now? Are you a one at a time person or a multiple reader? Have a high fantasy book you can recommend? Comment below and let me know!

What’s your favorite “How To” writing book?

I’ve been picky about what “how to” writing books I buy lately. Most of them are less about story structure, and more about the nitty gritty parts of writing.

Here are some of my favorite books on writing, but I’m in the market for more. Have any suggestions that improved your writing in any particular area?

16681583_1300483536656800_6852415959332937314_n1. The Emotion Thesaurus
Good for – writing character feelings through their body language.
Lacking in – For a thesaurus, it doesn’t list off as many emotions as I’d hope.

2. Writer’s Guide to Character Traits 
Good for – Nailing down Character behavior regarding their mental status.
Lacking in – It’s one sided and stereotypical at times.

3. Writing from the Senses
Good for – Writing more expressive and meaningful scenes.
Lacking in – It’s a little “How To” and repeats what I’ve read in other books.

4. Plot Vs. Character
Good for – Helps see things from a plot/character writer’s perspective.
Lacking in – Not sure. I really enjoyed this one.

5. Bullies Bastards and Bitches
Good for – Creating fun, deep, well rounded villains.
Lacking in – Can read a little Creative Writing 101.

6. Word Painting
Good for – Explains writing descriptively better than Writing from the Senses.
Lacking in – Not a whole lot. I really don’t have any complaints about this book.

 

Book Review #3 – Crimson Lake

When I read the work of a suspense author, I always have one worry. Is this story going to be the same type of tropes thrown into the same scenario? As much as I loved Hades, this question sat in the back of my mind. I should’ve known better, as Candice Fox did not disappoint.

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If you read my last review of her work, you’ll know I’m a big fan. So much so, in fact, shortly after I finished Hades, I ordered Eden, pre ordered Fall, and have my eye out for Never Never, a novel Fox wrote with James Patterson. When Fox contacted me with a chance to read Crimson Lake before it was released in the US, I have to admit, I might’ve fangirled just a little bit.

Crimson Lake is a small town in Cairns in Queensland, Australia, where Ted Conkaffey’s life is in ruins. Accused of kidnapping and torturing a young girl, he’s a retired cop with a tarnished name. He’s set on hiding from the world when he’s set up to met with Amanda Pharrell, a P.I. with murder in her past. The two begin their working relationship hunting for missing author, Jake Scully, under the eyes of a town that’s waiting for them to slip up.

If there’s one thing I enjoyed most of this novel, it was the protagonist, Ted. His fall from grace creates tension in a way that many authors are unable to capture. Not only is the reader able to feel his despair and emptiness, but there’s also rage and fury. He spirals into a depression and Fox makes his PTSD from his trial and experiences vividly realistic. Through all of it, I was rooting for him to succeed.

Amanda wasn’t a character to sneeze at either. She keeps Ted constantly pushed outside his comfort zone, and the two dynamics play well off one another.

I will say this though. Fox created two of the most unlikable police officers I’ve ever read. If anyone was going to get pushed into a bog full of crocodiles, I wanted it to be those two.  But here’s the thing. I LOVED to hate them. They made my skin crawl with how much they antagonized Ted, and made for a constant reminder that Ted’s life was always in danger because of what he was accused of.

You can purchase Crimson Lake on Amazon and if you’re a suspense fan, I say add it to your reading list!

Updating my Bookshelf – Call for Recommendations

Back in 2011, I made one of the biggest mistakes I could’ve made as a writer. I stopped reading. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t look at my bookshelf one day and go, “Who gives a crap about these things?”. But somewhere between moving, getting settled into the military life, and stressors that came up in 2012, I gradually fell out of the habit of reading.

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When I moved back to Texas in 2014, however, I slowly began to pick it back up again. I didn’t read nearly as much as I used to, but still more than I did in Virginia. I started with fun reads at first; Patricia Briggs has always been a favorite of mine and Neil Gaiman is more than entertaining, but I avoided nonfiction. When I couldn’t find a book, I went off recommendations of my friend, Alaska.

Now, in Washington, I make a point to pick up a book. I started updating my bookshelf in January, reading everything I can get my hands on, never wanting to fall back into the habit of not feeding the reader in me. I started with non-fiction, not only in subjects I want to know more about, but also to learn other people’s points of view and opinions. It’s like a reading revival over here, and I’m loving it!

What I finished reading in April

Hades by Candice Fox – Suspense/Murder Mystery
Crimson Lake
by Candice Fox* –  Suspense/Murder Mystery
Jonah Axe and The Weeping Bride by Claire L. Brown* – Time Travel/Fantasy
The Funhouse by Dean Koontz – Suspense/Fantasy

What’s currently on my nightstand/in my reading pile

Eden by Candice Fox – Suspense/Murder Mystery
The Last Wish by Andrzey Sapkowski – High Fantasy
Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman – High Fantasy
The Stand  by Stephen King – Post Apocalyptic/Horror/Fantasy
Why I’m not a Feminist by Jessa Crispin – Nonfiction/Social Politics
Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs – Urban Fantasy
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs – Urban Fantasy
The Stolen Throne by David Gaider – High Fantasy

And what do I plan to buy next?

Lucifer Eve and Adam by Peter Wilkes & Catherine Dickey Wilson – Religious Fiction/Romance
Discovery of Witches by Debora Harkness – Historical Fantasy
The Devil of White City by Erik Larson – Nonfiction/True Crime

Any suggestions? List them below! I’m looking for suspense, urban fantasy, and dark fantasy, but welcome non-fiction as well.

* – Review coming soon

Book Review #2 – Hades

Occasionally, I find myself wandering down the paperback book aisle in the grocery store, just to see what’s there. Often times, I’m met with shirtless cowboys promising to sweep a gal off her feet, burly warriors in kilts with a woman tossed back in his arms, or old novels that sold well in their time that I either already have or didn’t want to read in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised to find something different when I saw Hades. Something that wasn’t a romance. Something darker.

Hades tells the story of Frank Bennett, a detective with more than one skeleton in his closet and his new partner, Eden Archer. Dark haired, big eyed, and mysterious, Frank makes it his goal to figure Eden, and her brother Ethan, out.

When bodies stuffed in boxes turn up on the bottom of the ocean, Frank has to catch a killer while trying to uncover secrets from his partner’s past.

I’m going to tell you right off the bat, if you like Dexter, both as a television show and as a book, and/or anything Hannibal Lecter, this book is for you. For her debut novel, Candice Fox builds crime scenes with the best of them, and for an author’s debut novel, she blew me away.

The novel builds tension beautifully, and you can’t miss Fox’s sense of humor shining through Bennett. She knows when to throw in a dark joke, and captured the way cops act at a crime scene with an authenticity that many miss. Not only that, but Bennett’s a man’s man. Fox wasn’t afraid to make him an alpha male with more than one “meathead” layer. He knew what he was doing, but could rely on his smart, yet occasionally odd partner.

While I enjoyed Bennett, with his cocky attitude and a nose for trouble, I still found myself eager to get to the parts with Hades. An anti-hero with a soft spot for kids, Hades outshone every other character. He and Ethan, Eden’s somewhat unhinged brother, were by far my favorite to read about. And while I know I probably shouldn’t like Ethan, I enjoyed every action he took (even if I don’t condone them).

Eden spent most of the novel silently watching, or ignoring Bennett’s jabs, and I was left feeling like I never got past the surface of her character until the very end. That being said, this was due to the fact that everyone was an unreliable narrator when it came to her. Hades and Bennett both are outsiders to her world, and it wasn’t until the ending did Fox let a side of Eden come out that I was dying to learn more about. And really, I loved the way she slowly showed her hand. It kept me curious, and intrigued me enough to go out and buy the sequel, entitled Eden.

As for the writing itself, Fox knows how to craft a scene by focusing on the small details. When things are crumbling, sometimes quite literally, around the protagonists, Fox doesn’t focus on the blood or the violence. She writes about the flow of the hair as it halos around a young girl’s face or the light catching on something so small, it should’ve been missed. It creates a haunting image on the page that actually had me at one point go, “NO!”.

Overall, I’d buy Hades in a signed hardback edition, if I could track one down. That’s just how much I enjoyed it. While my husband is glad I’m done with this book (I have to admit, I had more than one outburst reading this book, and even forced him to listen to me read passages aloud), I’m not. I can’t wait to start the sequel, and say if you’re looking for a new author who’s been up and coming over the past three years, check out Hades.

Book Review – The Good Daughter

I’m going to be completely honest here. Women’s Fiction isn’t a genre I dive into very often, and as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve never read Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, or even Alexandra Burt’s first book Remember Mia

All that being said, I was not prepared for how much I enjoyed The Good Daughter.

 I’ll try to stay as spoiler free as possible, as each page turning chapter really should be left for the reader to enjoy

The Good Daughter takes you to the small town of Aurora, Texas, where Dahlia Whaler is on the hunt to discover who she is and what happened in her past. Right off the bat, I was captivated by Burt’s knowledge of Texas. She leaves you with the feeling of dust in your mouth and sun on your skin, where the summers are too hot for too long. It’s the perfect setting for missing women, murder, and a little bit of American folk magic.

It’s in Aurora that Dahlia tries to make sense of the images of her childhood. Pictures filled with a half mad mother, Memphis, stuffy cars, and run down “no-tell-motels”. With her mother’s mental health slipping, Dahlia’s starting to find cracks in her own foundation, leaving her to ask, is she going crazy, too? While she’s trying to come to terms with this possibility, there are point of view switches from her to Memphis, and two women from the past. Quinn, a woman in a loveless marriage, and Aella, someone who could easily be described as a back wood, Texas conjurer. 

Where I think the book really shined was during Aella’s story. Everything about this character left me wanting more, and I would love to read a book about just her. Burt knows her folklore and Aella’s, for lack of a better term, magic is dark, gritty and is reminiscent of what you’d find in a Southern Gothic horror.

The chapters with Aella and Quinn interacting were by far the most enjoyable and made Quinn the second most likely character to steal the show. Quinn’s desperation and Aella’s strong will made for well crafted scenes with dialogue that’ll make you question who really controls the world. Fate, God, or something darker?

I do wonder if Burt enjoyed writing her third person perspectives more so than Dahlia’s first person? Reading about Quinn’s life, Aella’s private workings, or even Memphis’ mental instabilities had smoother transitions and tended to read clearer. That being said, Dahlia’s unreliable narrative did keep me guessing for most of the book. 

The relationship between Memphis and Dahlia was another part of this book that I think a lot of readers will enjoy. Not every mother daughter relationship is sunshine and roses, and sometimes the child has to be more of the parent. Burt captures the strange dynamics between the two and anyone who’s been in Dahlia’s shoes will be able to relate.

I also appreciate the parallels between the drama in Dahlia’s life, and her hunt for who she is. Dahlia’s past is interwoven with a search for the identity of a Jane Doe, the struggle with a sad excuse for a dog, and an array of missing women that Dahlia finds herself in the middle of. Each side story and subplot ties into Dahlia’s life, and if you overlook them, you’ll be missing a major part of the book.

My only wish was that the ending hadn’t felt so rushed. Just as the book hit it’s climax, it ended. I was left with a “that’s it?” feeling, in spite of how much I liked how some of the characters’ stories were wrapped up. The suspense that held you throughout the novel slowly loses steam, and I wanted more. That being said, I’ll definitely be giving The Good Daughter another read, and have already shared my copy with a few other friends.

In the end, I loved The Good Daughter.  It made me rethink the Women’s Fiction/Suspense genre, and was enough to make me add similiar books to my reading pile. A must read for people who like stories about self discovery through a dark past. 

 17190721_833559936796557_3561210457375346851_n.jpgWant to get your hands on The Good Daughter

Buy it on Amazon today.

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