In Which I Go Mental

Word on the ‘Net is that May 16th – 22nd is Mental Health Awareness Week. I don’t generally get involved in capital Weeks, Months, or Days, but in this instance, I felt compelled to recognize the occasion.

It’s probably to do with the fact that I am gradually becoming more aware of my own mental state, which seems to regularly include episodes of anxiety and depressive tendencies, with some mild OCD-like symptoms thrown in for fun. (Note: None of it is fun.)

And I’m not the only one in my head affected by mental illness. Will Scarlet and Allyn-a-Dale, for instance, have varying issues to deal with, too. Which is why they joined in the whole #InShadowSelfie* thing on the Outlaws of Avalon Tumblr.

*(Details here for those wondering what in the world that hashtag’s about.)

Mind you, I wasn’t planning to blog about any of this, until I realized that it’s been a while since I shared any new book reviews with you guys, and – hey, whaddaya know! – a couple of books I’ve read/very much enjoyed recently featured main characters with mental illnesses.

Kismet or nah?

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Book the First: The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness

Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy/Paranormal

Featured Illnesses/Disorders: OCD, anxiety, anorexia, alcoholism

Blurb: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

My Story: Majorly enjoyable. A number of lines had me laughing out loud. (Great narrative voice!) Some others drove me nearly to tears. (Relatable mental health struggles are relatable.) I loved the focus on – and the depth of – the main characters’ friendships, including between siblings and potential romantic interests. And the juxtaposition between the story in the spotlight and the plot offstage was a fun quirky touch. Part of me wishes I were rereading the book already.

Edit: Welp, that re-read just happened, and yep, would still recommend.

Mental Health Reads

Book the Second: When We Collided” by Emery Lord

Genre: Contemporary YA

Featured Illnesses/Disorders: Bipolar disorder, depression (plus grief)

Blurb: We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

My Story: Hearing about this book in the lead-up to its release, I had a hopeful feeling that I’d like it. I had yet to read any of Emery Lord’s novels (though I’d heard good things), but what I’d glimpsed of her on Twitter seemed cool, and the book’s premise grabbed me – in particular, the part about the bipolar protag. …which isn’t in the blurb, but y’know, rumor had it. (One of my [fictional] friends is bipolar; I figured he’d appreciate having this kind of story in our shared headspace.)

Just to play it safe, I read the first couple chapters before committing to the purchase. And joy of joys, it sucked me right in from page one – like to the point that the gratifyingly busy bookstore faded around, leaving Reader Me in her happy place. Vivi’s voice is vivacious, creative, and fun, while Jonah’s is likewise amusing, if far more grounded. Both co-stars garnered my sympathetic attachment. Aaaaand I basically chose finishing the book over going to bed before 3am. ‘Cause I do what I want.

Confirmed: Emery Lord can write. I may have to try getting ahold of her first two novels after all.

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Some Kind of Happiness

Book the Third: Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Featured Illnesses/Disorders: Depression

Blurb: THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT
• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real—and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination, for fans of Counting by 7s and Bridge to Terabithia.

My Story: I haven’t actually read this book yet, but it releases today (*throws Book Birthday confetti*), and I’ve been looking forward to it and totally pre-ordered it, so hopefully my copy will reach me soon, and if the stars align aright, I’ll tell you how I liked it. ^.^

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So concludes my contribution to this capital Week’s awareness. Stay healthy, y’all.

Shadow Selfie 05

Reading, Review Writing, Rithmatics and a Rook

It’s a double book review day! …because I’ve been sitting on these reviews for a while, and if I don’t put ‘em up on the blog today, when the heck will I?

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Book the First: “The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1)” by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: YA Steampunk Fantasy

Blurb: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in worldbuilding, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.

The Rithmatist

My Thoughts: I picked up this book – my first taste of Sanderson lit – on the recommendation of a friend (holla, Chelsea!), and I gotta say, I really enjoyed it. Who knows how I’d have felt if I’d been left to try to envision Rithmatics on my own (visualization = not my strong suit), but happy days, the book actually included instructional illustrations before every chapter! So instead of feeling glumly out of the loop, I found myself studying the drawings with genuine interest, almost as if I, too, were a student at Armedius Academy.

Of course, not just every student is granted the opportunity to study Rithmatics in depth. For all his unflagging fascination and non-magical skill with the art, Joel has missed out on the chance to become a Rithmatist. (Forever?! Time may tell…) This causes him understandable disappointment, and some measure of scornful frustration at the seeming incompetence of fellow student – and lucky-duck Rithmatist – Melody. But there’s a dire mystery afoot, so naturally the pair figures out a way to ally against the threat.

I had a fun time trying to puzzle out the entity behind the kidnappings and/or murders. And spoiling nothing, I will say that the ending left me both with a satisfying “AHA! I knew it!” and an equally satisfying “What?! Oh my GOSH, I can’t believe it! Sanderson, you excellent fiend!”

Also, the world-building was awesome. And I say that as a reader for whom world-building is generally among the least of my interests. Just the fact that the United States had been reimagined as a bunch of islands tickled me no end. Throw in the charts of Rithmatic defenses, and I was straight-up sold.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Do it, bro.

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Book the Second: “Rook” by Sharon Cameron

Genre: Young Adult [Historical] Dystopia

Blurb: History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Rook 2

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

My Thoughts: Post-apocalyptic dystopia isn’t usually my scene, but this book got away with it clean, thanks to its future setting’s captivating aura of a Europe of centuries gone by.

And oh, the cleverness of the plot! Full of twisty intrigue from the get-go (which I, being neither twisty nor intrigue-y by nature, cannot help but admire), with a latter third careening at a pace that would not let up. On the micro level, I appreciated how the beginnings of each section tended to echo or cunningly follow-up the section before, everything carefully connected and choreographed; it was a treat to see that kind of artistic thought put into the storytelling structure.

Of course, if a story doesn’t have living characters, it’s got nothing.

“Rook” doesn’t got nothing.

*ignores the excess of negatives and questionable grammar* *moves on*

The main villain was scary-smart, so thank goodness the protagonists weren’t lacking in competence. Their schemes were as sharp as their banter, and their relationships dynamic. Also, I freely confess – it didn’t take long at all for René to charm me. I doubt he’d be surprised to hear it.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Do it or face the Razor.

(Do it or you may not know just what is this Razor to which I refer.)

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Such are my thoughts on the “Rook” and “The Rithmatist”. Have any of your own? Share below!

A Little Kick on the Side

I’m not actually here! I’m still cruising Europe!

…Which would account for why I forgot I’d signed on to be a part of yesterday’s Release Day Blast for author Natalie Whipple’s latest. *cough*

But by God’s grace, I remembered that today’s my stop on the book’s blog tour. So real quick before I get back to exploring abroad (recaps on the whole adventure to come eventually), here’s what’s up:

Sidekick Banner

The Book: “Sidekick” by Natalie Whipple

Genre: Contemporary YA

Blurb: Russ is a high school football player who feels like he always comes in second to his best friend, Garret. In sports. In school. With girls. Well, he’s tired of it, and he gets the rather foolish idea that if he can win the heart of the new girl in town before Garret he can prove he’s not just sloppy seconds.

His plan? Use his anime-obsessed sister’s group, who has befriended the new girl, to get closer to her. He’d never tell the team, but he’s been going to Anime Night for years and might even enjoy it. That would ruin his reputation, just like his secret love for cooking and James Taylor.

But pretending to be something you aren’t catches up to you eventually, and Russ can only get away with living two lives for so long. As more than one person reveals they have something to hide, Russ must figure out what and who he really wants in his life. And more than that, he needs the courage to make it happen.

Sidekick Cover

My Thoughts: One thing I really appreciate about Natalie Whipple books is that I have yet to see her put her protagonists in a vacuum. There’s always a group of friends and/or family around to create an authentic, eclectic social environment. It makes reading the story feel a lot like just hanging out with the gang. And this may well be my favorite Whipple-written gang to date – which is why the possibility of the main character fumbling his relationships beyond all hope of a happy ever after felt like such painfully high stakes.

Jealousies, deceptions, and high school politics served as a foil against Russ Pearson’s desire to just get through his senior year without feeling like a loser, come in second place to his best friend. His situation got complicated, but it was no manufactured drama. Just motivated actions, reactions, and consequences – lather, rinse, repeat. Were some of those actions at the top of the cycle ill-advised? Absolutely. But I got it. I got Russ. And I rooted for him like crazy. Plus, much as he tried to downplay it, experiencing his culinary passion added to the story’s homey flavor (pun half-intended).

I received an ARC of “Sidekick” in exchange for an honest review, and it was a genuine pleasure to read.

Purchase links for “Sidekick”Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository

Purchase a signed copy from the author here!

Natalie Whipple

About the Author: Natalie Whipple grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU, with a minor in editing. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook.

She is the author of the TRANSPARENT series, HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW, the I’M A NINJA series, FISH OUT OF WATER, and MY LITTLE BRONY (under K.M. Hayes). In addition to that, she is on the writing team for the cRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera that should be out sometime in 2015.

Blog: http://betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nataliewhipple

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Natalie-Whipple/165166756949250

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/nataliewhipple/

Tumblr: http://nataliewhipple.tumblr.com/

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ZkX6f

And guess what? There’s a giveaway! Enter to win a Kindle e-copy of “Sidekick”! (Open internationally)

Deshipley, over and out.

Truly Strange Reviews: “Of Mice and Monsters”

Welcome to the Stranger Than Truth Club Minutes, featuring conversations between me and my closest group of friends – one, my IRL bestie, the rest… a little reality-impaired.

“But what we lack in so-called reality,” Will Scarlet inserts, “we make up for in awesomeness!”

Fact, that.

The way of it is, the Stranger Than Truth Club takes people from all walks of life, universes, times, and species, and brings us together through beautiful, ever-evolving, cross-plane friendships.

I wish I could give you a glimpse into our insightful, loving, hilarious, open community. Unfortunately, I can only give you transcripts of our idiocy.

And so without further ado: Truth is stranger than fiction. We are—

Stranger Than Truth 02

Tirzah: I wrote a story – “Of Mice and Monsters” – published yesterday in “Beyond the Wail”, a paranormal anthology! In my words, my story is about Benjamin, a man who, “troubled by ghosts within and without, struggles to become the man his girlfriend needs instead of the monster he is.” But what are my own words worth? I thought. Wouldn’t it be infinitely more bizarre and confusing— I mean, awesome, to let the Stranger Than Truth club tell it like they see it? And so, beginning with the beginning…

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Of Mice and Monsters: “There is a man who twists the necks of caged mice. There is a coward who fancies himself a warrior. There is a man who squeezes little songbirds in his hand, listening to the helpless cheeping, and supposes himself a bullfighter, a breaker of wild stallions. This is the man that preys on small women and makes them smaller, that crushes a bruised flower until there is naught but the scent; for that helpless scent is incense to his assumed godhood.”

Will: There is a man we are not inviting to hang out with us.

Tirzah: We’ll invite all sorts in here but, yeeeeah, that’s probably not one.

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Danielle: So, Lute, what stood out to you about this story?

Lute: I wasn’t in it.

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Allyn: I wonder what fate befell the mouse. It says its life went downhill. …How far?

Tirzah: To the bottom, I expect.

Allyn: I feel I should speak a eulogy.

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Bruno: Props to Tina for knowing Italian food is king.

Sy: Even if she has trouble making herself eat it. Even if she thinks Olive Garden is representative.

Tirzah: I love how you all immediately hit on the heart of the story. Italian food ambassador – that’s what I was going for.

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Arthur: I, for one, would really like to see “Macbeth: A Comedy”.

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Bedivere: There’s something to be said for Benjamin’s snark-voice. In between him being unbearable, that was fun.

Will: That’s what they’ll be saying about you.

Bedivere: I’m sure that’s what Lancelot’s already saying about me.

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Galahad: It’s reassuring that there was a part of Benjamin willing to stand up to the monster inside him. It may be that not everyone has that, or ignores it to the point where it becomes ineffectual.

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Gawain: Why did she shorten her name to “Tina”? It was what, Margareta?

Tirzah: That’s a mystery I’ll admit to never having solved. Maybe it was her middle name?

Sy: Sir Gawain in da house, comin’ atcha with the DEEP questions!

Straight Outta Camelot

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Lancelot: I suppose congratulations are in order for the wordsmith, since I can’t so much as think about this story without choking on cheap jasmine perfume.

Tirzah: *sensorialy artisanal bow*

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Rosalba: Are you actually familiar with any of those Armored Nights songs, Tirzah?

Tirzah: Actually, I made them up.

Will: Wait, they’re not a band??

Tirzah: Nope. I guess with them being in there with all the actual, legitimate references, it made it look legit. Should I preen?

Danielle: I’m just over here thinking how frustrated I’d be if I tried looking them up on YouTube.

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Edgwyn: One of course feels dreadful about the baby. But then, it’s not as if Benjamin will be ready to behave like a father for a very long time. One hopes he’ll get there eventually, though.

Tirzah: Could be.

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Dalvin: Not to blame Tina or anything, but I just feel like, if there weren’t people like her, the monsters like him would starve.

Bedivere: You mean, when someone says something you don’t like, just smack the hell out of ‘em, and the monsters will be like, “never mind”?

Dalvin: Yeah. Draw a line. Set boundaries. It’s as simple as that. Except… *sighs, glancing at her mother* …I guess it’s not that simple for everyone.

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Sy: Even in my days as a thief lord, I hated that sort of cheap and shoddy emotional manipulation. *shakes his head* I guess I don’t understand the motivation, either. I’d rather be powerful than feel powerful any day. That’s the problem I have with men like that: They feel small, so they find someone smaller and cut them down further still. And I’m like, do you even lift, bro? If you feel small, work on yourself! Not that I’m against cultivating emotional dependence, but—

Danielle: A-a-and that’s the end.

Beyond the Wail, full spread
For more info on the antho, click the pic to check out its page on the Xchyler Pub site!

Twice Upon a Midsummer Night

[Epic announcer voice] In a world where I view reading time as one of my all-too-infrequent reprieves from a life lived in front of a screen [/End epic announcer voice], books on my Kindle app tend to languish unread indefinitely. So while I did at one point or another grab an e-copy of a certain retelling of Shakespeare’s classic “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with gears on it, I had yet to get around to reading it before I recently found myself on the editing team for the novel’s second edition.

(Yeah, I’m totes an assistant editor with Xchyler Publishing now, didn’t you know? :D)

“Oh, you helped edit the book?” says some guy lurking in the back. “Bah. Biased opinions.”

Not so, sir! …Madam? *peers past the blog stage lights* I can’t quite tell. No matter. I’m perfectly capable of disliking a piece of writing, whether I’m entitled to a piece of the profits or not. So be assured that my review to follow is as honest as I ever am in public.

“And just how honest is that?”

You’ll never know.

The Book: “A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk” (second edition!) by Scott E. Tarbet

Genre: Steampunk (surprise!)

Blurb: Pauline Spiegel, a master artificer like her mother before her, wants just one thing: to wed the love of her life, Alexander MacIntyre, a lowly undersecretary of the Royal Household. However, a long-term pact between her parents, and a noble House, stands between her and her happily ever after.

When a priceless mechanoid of unfathomable power is stolen, Pauline finds herself entangled in skullduggery and international intrigue, upon which the fate of nations rest.

Only with the help of her friends, and a brilliant scientist with a swarm of micromechanical insects, can Pauline survive the dark forces determined to destroy her. But will her betrothed and his rag-tag band of semi-mechanical soldiers reveal Alexander’s secrets as well?

Immerse yourself in this Steampunk retelling of Shakespeare’s classic, replete with the newfound wizardry of alternative Victorian technology, mistaken identities, love triangles, and deadly peril, set against the backdrop of a world bracing itself for war, and Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

 

My Thoughts: On the whole, I much enjoyed the story. The plot was rather politics-heavy, for my tastes, so I’d have preferred that a number of the characters’ sermons about international policy and the course of history and whatnot wrap up sooner than they did. Nonetheless, it was a breath-bating adventure. Even going in with the assumption that all would end well enough (the novel is based upon one of Shakespeare’s comedies, after all, not a tragedy), my heart thumped fretfully over the thought of the good guys coming to grievous harm. That “rag-tag band of semi-mechanical soldiers” amused me no end, silly fellows that they were. And I will admit to developing something of a crush on the antagonist’s formidable second-in-command, somewhere along the way. (#TeamShaka)

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Come for the clockwork, stay for the puckish shenanigans, say I!

And now, marvel at the book’s revamped cover.

AMNS Cover, Redesigned

Early Birds, a Wyrm, and Whatnot (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Dawlish, creation of author A.J. Campbell, describes herself thus:

So hey, I’m Dawlish. I’m 15. I like pepperoni pizza and hate diet coke. I live somewhere in the roof-space of Durham cathedral with a load of birds. Actual birds. Jackdaws, mostly. I work for these people called Kate Avery and The Baron – they used to be married or something but they’re not speaking to each other at the moment. Don’t know why. But I owe them big time, and I’m working that off. Mostly by spying on the one for the other. And on this guy called Dick Lampton. He’s kind of an idiot.

“Welcome, Dawlish!” Will greets the girl now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – is that your real name? Or like, a surname/nickname thing? ‘Cause my author’s read through her share of baby naming books, and I don’t believe she’s ever come across the like.”

The girl shrugs, slouching further into her seat. “It’s just a name. It’s mine. I don’t know where it came from. Apparently it’s a place in Devon, but I don’t know, I’ve never been there.” She pauses to pick some of the black polish off her nails. “At least it’s original. Unlike yours. ‘Cause you’re not the same Will Scarlet that the Baron knows, are you? I’ve seen pictures. You look nothing alike.”

Will’s brows arch high. “He knows a me?? Maybe there are parallel universes at play! Lord knows it wouldn’t be the strangest circumstance I’ve been caught up in. Talking of one’s circumstances: What’s it like, having a garret full of Jackdaws as roommates? Come to that, what sort of bird is a Jackdaw, exactly?”

The look on Dawlish’s face is one of disbelief and contempt as she asks, “Where are you from, exactly? Do they not have Jackdaws there? They live, like, all over England, y’know.”

“Well, jolly for England. But it’s been a century or nine since I’ve been there, so I may have missed the species’ discovery. Humor my ignorance?”

She sighs audibly. “They’re birds, about so big… Corvids – that’s the same family as crows and ravens – black and grey. Dark black patch on their head like one of those tiny Jewish things. Very intelligent, very noisy, and they drop feathers everywhere. But I wouldn’t live anywhere without them.”

“What’s a bit of noise and feathers between friends, I always say. Or have never said. I may start saying it. Anyway, these employers of yours – Kate Somebody and The Baron who keeps Scarlet company. If most of your job involves spying on them, you’re bound to know as much as or more than anyone on the subjects. What juicy dish can you share about each of them that won’t get you fired or something? And just what is the nature of the debt you owe them, anyway?”

“I’ve stopped doing the spying thing now. It was getting really boring. Because he’s still blatantly in love with her, and she probably is too only she won’t admit it. It’s like that whole thing on Friends if Ross and Rachel were more sarcastic and English… and probably immortal… and master criminals.”

Will sniggers. “Aw, man, what I wouldn’t pay to watch that TV spinoff…”

Dawlish carries on over him, “They never tell me any of the good stuff anyway – apparently I’m too young or something.” Again, an overly dramatic sigh. “Aaaand I’m not allowed to talk about the debt. Apparently it’s an important plot point or something.”

Will nods, knowing how that goes.

“Also, it’s personal. Look, have you got anything to eat? I was promised dinner if I came and did this, but all I’ve had is some pathetic excuse for tea and biscuits in the green room…”

Off-camera, Allyn says, disgruntled, “What happened to the pizza I ordered in?”

Will turns in surprise. “That was for her?”

“I’d written ‘FOR DAWLISH’ right on the box!”

“Oh. Yeah, I saw that. Guess I was too hungry to make the connection. Sorry about that,” Will addresses his guest sheepishly. “What say Allyn and I take you out for something right after the show? Our treat. We’re nearly done, now. And a little birdie’s probably already told you what the final question is to be. Tell me, what is your author A.J.’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He flashes his legendary smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Dude… I’m fifteen. That would be really weird. And kind of creepy.”

Will coughs into his fist. “…And par for the course. But since I totally ate your pizza, I guess I won’t press the issue. Allyn, how about a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by A.J. Campbell’s ‘Sigil of the Wyrm (Into the Weirding, Book 1)’:

Sigil of the Wyrm, blurb

“As a bit of bonus material,” Allyn continues, “our author’s review of the book is as follows:

Sigil of the Wyrm, my review

You ever enjoy a book too darn much to do more than verbally point and flail? That’s me and “Sigil of the Wyrm”. Fortunately, I had the foresight to scribble down a few of my impressions in real time. So, in lieu of a coherent review, here’s the view over the shoulder of Reader Me:

“Mmm, yum, loving this so far.”

“So lush and English. *elated emoticon*”

“And all the characters are such characters. With smart mouths and secrets and histories. Weirdoes that make you wonder, every one.”

“Delicious, I say! (And if the Baron is legit who I think he is, then the gymnastics of my heart are all the more justified.)”

“So genuinely sad that I’m too tired to continue reading right now. *tragic emoticon*”

“Twists and surprises and cool stuff, and… this is the first of a series, right? Right? Good.”

“Thank you, Allyn – and Danielle,” Will says. “Thanks to you as well, Dawlish. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

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Sigil of the Wyrm, availability

Your copy of “Sigil of the Wyrm” awaits. And don’t forget to enter the tour-long giveaway!

 

Book Release Blog Tour (August 29 – September 5)

Saturday, Aug. 29

Alex Campbell

Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind

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Sunday, Aug. 30

Lurking Musings

Slithers of Thought

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Monday, Aug. 31

The Deep, Dark Library

Cobblestone Scribe

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Tuesday, Sep. 1

Lucy Ayrton, Performance Poet

T.N. Payne, Author

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Wednesday, Sep. 2

Richard A. Usher, Media Creative

Alex McGilvery’s World

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Thursday, Sep. 3

Scott E. Tarbet, Author

Are You Afraid of the Dark

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Friday, Sep. 4

OMega W

Danielle E. Shipley (You are here!)

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Saturday, Sep. 5

R. A. Ridley

Didi Lawson, Author

Musings, Amusings, and Bemusings

Double the Dragon

This may or may not be taken as blasphemy – particularly coming from not only a fantasy reader, but a fantasy writer – but the fact is, I’m not super into dragons.

Don’t get me wrong! They can be cool and all. If they’re done right. And by “right”, I mean they need to bring more to the table than just, “We’re dragons! ‘Nough said!” If and when I ever decide to deliver a story featuring THE mythological beast synonymous with fantasy (meaning above and the beyond the cameo appearance in “The Song Caster”, and my sorta-kinda dragon character who’ll be making her debut in Xchyler Publishing’s paranormal anthology this fall), it’ll be because I’ve come up with an at least semi-original spin that I feel will do this venerable creature justice.

So, that’s the place I was coming from when I picked up a pair of dragon books by (as coincidence would have it) a pair of Rachels. Did these fire-breathing (and, in both cases, shapeshifting) lizards brings their A-game? Read on, reader…

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Book the First: “Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers #1)” by Rachel Aaron.

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Blurb: As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ—a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit—Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…

Nice Dragons

My Thoughts: Sorry, Julius Heartstriker, but it’s true: You really are a nice guy. Like, truly. And I very much like that about you. Sure, it was also cool to watch some of your siblings do their more blatantly draconic thing – Justin’s fearless badassery, Chelsea’s deadly creepiness, and the unpredictable* Bob. (*Irony intended.) Not to mention the death spirit cat. They all did their part to help things pick up speed as the story went along, until we all went roaring through the climax. But I’m a bit of a sucker for a super sweetheart (if they happen to have an “awww!”-worthy backstory, so much the more darling), and it was a pleasure, Julius, to watch you grow – both in your partnership with Marci the mage, and into your own strengths. Way to dragon up, dude.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): C’mon, kids. When was the last time I told you not to read a Rachel Aaron book? The e-book’s been out for a while, and now it’s finally available in paperback, too, so if you’re a diehard physical-book-lover like me, that excuse for not giving this book your money is dead. (Also, as of recently, the first sequel is out! ^o^)

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Book the Second: “Seraphina (#1)” by Rachel Hartman.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Blurb: Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Seraphina

My Thoughts: So, I basically loved everything about this book. Seraphina’s passion for music, the blunt wit of her voice, pretty much any exchange between her and… well, most of the people she spoke with, but the excellent Lucian Kiggs in particular. There were mysteries afoot and a full cast of characters I cared about, including dragons religiously divorced from human emotion. The world was fascinating, and the storytelling fun. Even the glossary at the end was entertaining! I laughed. I cringed. I mentally fondled this or that turn of phrase. I yelled at the pages and earned disparaging looks from my sisters. I smacked myself for not having sought out “Seraphina” sooner, and for leaving Book Two on the library shelf when I finally snagged Book One. “Shadow Scale”, you’d better believe I’ll be coming for you.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): YES, SHUT UP, YES.

Such are my thoughts on the books. Have any of your own? Share below!