Wednesday, 11 October 2017

#bookreview: The Hush | Skye Melki-Wegner

The HushThe Hush by Skye Melki-Wegner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chester Hays is a musician—a very good musician. But he hasn’t been (and doesn’t have the money to) audition at the Conservatorium. Which means he isn’t a Songshaper and he shouldn’t be able to connect to the Song or play Music—that special sort that was made of sorcery and secrets—but he can. And he doesn’t know how. Or how to stop it. Travelling from town to town in search of his missing father, Chester makes a terrible mistake out of pride—and suddenly he finds himself on the run from the authorities, hiding in a secret world that shouldn’t exist and doing things he shouldn’t be able and isn’t allowed to.

The Hush is brilliantly written. This magical steampunk world comes alive and sucks you into it like whirlwind. Revelation upon revelation is thrust at you, the rhythm of discovery and rest keeping you as off-balance as Chester, layered secrets seeping out the way magic itself seems to seep into the Hush. Behind it all is the thrum of danger; danger that leads to imprisonment, torture, and even death.

It is also a stark commentary on the real world, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, nobody cares about the disappearing poor, and second chances hardly ever exist—if you’re not from the right family or the right background. It’s also a story of the poor and the disenchanted rising up to make a change—hoping to improve their lives. It has echoes of Robin Hood, of strong women fighting against their tormentors, of self-sacrificing love, of betrayal and conspiracy.

All woven together in an enthralling melody that catches your ear and won’t let you go.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

#bookreview: Lawless by Janeen Ippolito @thequietpen

Lawless (The Ironfire Legacy, #1)Lawless by Janeen Ippolito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To be honest, I went into Lawless a little warily. I had a rocky start with it--liking the snarkiness between Kesia and Zephryn, but stumbling a little to figure out what was going on. Fleetwings? Talents? Congruency? Scepters? What? But confusion soon cleared and then it was off on an adventure!

The dragon-human war has dragged for years with no resolution. On the dragon side, Kesia, convicted murderer, serves as a soldier for the Pinnacle in hopes of redemption; her fleetwing and tactical partner, deposed Prince Zephryn, too has little choice in his involvement. On the human side, Captain Shance Windkeeper has been conscripted into the war, hiding his distaste for it with alcohol and sex everytime he can. Unlikely partners, it would seem--and yet all three must work together to find the truth--and hopefully, stop the war.

I love the way Ippolito has created a dragon culture that's almost tangible and the world comes alive. It's also more interesting when the dragonshifters themselves constantly rediscover parts of their culture and lives that have been stolen away from them due to the war. But really, the best thing about Lawless is how fun it is. True, there's war and conspiracy, death and betrayal, but there's also the lighthearted side of life: Kesia muddling through confusing human social customs; Zilpath's gentle teasing; Shance constantly making a fool of himself for love; the banter between Kesia and Zephryn, Kesia and Shance.

However, it's not just a flighty read. Interweaved into this lightheartedness are broad themes of worth and redemption, strength and conviction, and faithfulness. Kesia struggles with her self-worth and is constantly fighting to redeem herself. Yet, as she remembers more about her forgotten past, and discovers more about what brought her to that place, she also learns that her past doesn't have to define her future, the actions of others don't necessarily demean her worth, and that who she is is strong enough.

Since this is book 1, obviously the story doesn't end yet. It reaches a sort of pause, and I have questions. But they can wait. Until book 2.

Note: I received an ARC from the publisher. This review is my own independent and fair evaluation.

View all my reviews

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Get your copy on:
Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo

ORDER AN AUTOGRAPHED PAPERBACK HERE!

Author Bio 
Janeen Ippolito is two authors for the price of one! She creates writing resources and writes speculative fiction with monsters, misfits, and mushy stuff. She's also an experienced author coach, editor, teacher, and the Fearless Leader (president) of Uncommon Universes Press. In her spare time, she enjoys sword-fighting, reading, geeky TV, and brownie batter.

A lifelong misfit, she believes different is beautiful and that everyone has the ability to tell their story. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and at her two websites: janeenippolito.com and writeinsideout.com




OH OH! BOOK RELEASE LAUNCH PARTY TODAY!



The Cipher Scavenger hunt is still ongoing, so make sure you check out all the starred posts! 

Sept. 21* - Laura A. Grace - Unicorn Quester - Author Interview 
Sept. 22* - Josh Hardt - Character Interview
Sept. 25 - Annie Douglass Lima - Realm Explorers
Sept. 26* - Anna Tan - Steampunk, Fantasy, and Cultures
Sept. 27* - Fanni Suto - Author Interview
Sept. 28 - Leanna Shields - Character Chat
Sept. 29 - Kessie Carroll - Book Spotlight
Sept. 30* - Bethany Jennings - Character MBTI
Oct. 1 - Melissa Sasina - Book Spotlight 
Oct. 2 - Alexander Preston - Book Review
Oct. 3* - Kyle Shultz - Character Interview 
Oct. 4* - Cathrine Bonham - FANtastic Interview
Oct. 5 - C. S. Johnson - Book Spotlight
Oct. 6 - Kara Swanson - Character Interview

Thursday, 28 September 2017

#Guestpost: Worldbuilding Cultures: Cultivating Sensitivity through Creativity by @Rebekah_Loper

Today, for the final post of what apparently became worldbuilding week, Rebekah Loper talks a little bit about cultures and sensitivity as part of her book launch tour.

Rebekah is a fellow A to Z blogger and Wrimo, who, coincidentally, introduced me to Realm Makers!

Worldbuilding Cultures: Cultivating Sensitivity through Creativity

Last summer, I read an article about fiction readers being more empathetic people than non-readers. There doesn’t seem to be a formal article or study about writers being more empathetic (though many writers are avid readers, so it wouldn’t be a surprise), but I would say that especially for writers of speculative fiction empathy is a necessary skill.

One of the methods I advocate in my book is to look at the world around you, especially climates similar to what you’re worldbuilding, and see what types of cultures developed from them. In this time, when terms like cultural appropriation and white-washing get tossed around frequently (and often justly), it is a fine line to walk.

When cultural inspiration is done inappropriately, it becomes something along the lines of plagiarism – taking something that wasn’t yours and claiming that it was, despite evidence to the contrary.

It’s one thing to take a single aspect of a culture, look at it from a new perspective, and re-build it for your world from there. It’s another matter entirely to take entire existing cultures (and cultural stereotypes) and transplant them into your story – especially for fantasy. Not only is it sloppy writing, but it’s disrespectful.

Culture has so many nuances to it, and especially so when you’re writing about a culture that isn’t yours. That doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task, however – it simply means you need more help than you do when you’re writing something that happens in your own backyard. It means learning how to put on someone else’s shoes, and walking a mile (or one hundred miles) in them, and knowing that it’s probably not ever going to be enough.

It all comes back to empathy – for your readers to be able to step inside another mind, another world, you have to know the nuances of your characters, and that means knowing their culture, whether it’s based on a real culture from our world or it’s one completely made up for your story.

Sometimes it means hours and hours of research and worldbuilding and revisions, and sometimes it means recognizing that you may not the best person to write the story. Most importantly, though, it means learning more about the world around you, whether it ends up in the story you write or not.

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Rebekah Loper loves to create worlds – whether they are magical and fictional, or a productive farm in her suburban backyard where she makes futile attempts to curse Bermuda grass from all existence.

Rebekah lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, dog, formerly feral cat, a flock of chickens, and an extensive tea collection. She blogs at rebekahloper.com, and is also a contributing blogger at Fantasy-Faction.com and The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society (fictionalferrets.wordpress.com).

Blog | Newsletter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


About the book:
Worldbuilding is the ultimate act of creation for speculative fiction writers, but how exactly do you worldbuild? You ask 'what if' and use each answer as a springboard to more questions and answers about your fictional world.

In The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, that ‘what if’ process is broken down into 26 themed chapters, covering topics ranging from architecture to zoology. Each chapter includes a corresponding set of guided exercises to help you find the ‘what if’ questions relevant to your story’s world.

Fair warning, though: worldbuilding is addictive. Once you get started, you might never put your pen down again.

Amazon | Apple | Nook | Google Play | Kobo

Get The A-Zs of Worldbuilding ebook for only 99 cents (USD) now through September 30! (Regularly $3.99)

Sign up for Rebekah’s newsletter by September 30 and get a 25% off coupon for The A-Zs of Worldbuilding paperback when you purchase it from RebekahLoper.com or CreateSpace!

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Check out my review HERE!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

#bookreview: The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by @Rebekah_Loper

The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch (The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, #1)The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch by Rebekah Loper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Covering everything from Architecture to Zoology, The A-Zs of Worldbuilding is a comprehensive workbook on how to build a fictional world from scratch. Evidently.

Each chapter provides some background on the chosen topic, giving examples of how that specific aspect may affect people or culture, both individually and as a whole. This is followed by exercises: questions about the topic, plus guidance on things to think about in answering those questions, which I found useful. A lot of times, I give up on workbooks because the questions are either too vague or too difficult to answer--and then everything goes all over the place. However, with the guided questions, Loper provides a structure that is both general (if you're experienced and just need a checklist) and focused (if you still need help figuring out what's going on).

Each chapter of the workbook, although interconnected, is mostly self-contained and can be focused on according to your individual needs. Reading & working through it with my own story world in mind, I found that some of the topics were super relevant (I should probably work a bit more on History, Queens [government], and Science [both tech levels and magic use]) but some were things I could easily decide to skim through for now (births, for one, since there's none in my story yet; time, for another, since I'm not messing about with that).

Overall, this workbook is a great resource when building your own science fiction or fantasy world. Obviously, what you get from it is going to be as much as the effort you personally put in, but so far it's been a great fodder for thought on how to fix and refine the world I'm building.

Note: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review as part of the launch tour.

View all my reviews

Rebekah Loper loves to create worlds – whether they are magical and fictional, or a productive farm in her suburban backyard where she makes futile attempts to curse Bermuda grass from all existence.

Rebekah lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, dog, formerly feral cat, a flock of chickens, and an extensive tea collection. She blogs at rebekahloper.com, and is also a contributing blogger at Fantasy-Faction.com and The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society (fictionalferrets.wordpress.com).

Blog | Newsletter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


About the book:
Worldbuilding is the ultimate act of creation for speculative fiction writers, but how exactly do you worldbuild? You ask 'what if' and use each answer as a springboard to more questions and answers about your fictional world.

In The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, that ‘what if’ process is broken down into 26 themed chapters, covering topics ranging from architecture to zoology. Each chapter includes a corresponding set of guided exercises to help you find the ‘what if’ questions relevant to your story’s world.

Fair warning, though: worldbuilding is addictive. Once you get started, you might never put your pen down again.

Amazon | Apple | Nook | Google Play | Kobo

Get The A-Zs of Worldbuilding ebook for only 99 cents (USD) now through September 30! (Regularly $3.99)

Sign up for Rebekah’s newsletter by September 30 and get a 25% off coupon for The A-Zs of Worldbuilding paperback when you purchase it from RebekahLoper.com or CreateSpace!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

#guestpost: Steampunk, Fantasy, and Cultures by @TheQuietPen


Today on the blog we welcome Janeen Ippolito from Uncommon Universes Press to talk about her new release Lawless and why on earth her steampunk has dragons!

Steampunk, Fantasy, and Cultures: Creating the World of The Ironfire Legacy

Some people write fantasy. Some people write steampunk.

And then some people, like me, say “why not both? Plus, you can have DRAGONS!”

When I began to write in Sekastra, the continent featured in The Ironfire Legacy, I actually started with what is now slated to be book three in the series. In this draft, I had a dragonshifter with the ability to shapeshift into any animal trying to escape captivity in a human steampunk city—and then things go horribly wrong (because they gotta). As I meandered through drafting and added more world-building details, I realized the dragonshifter was involved in this dragon-human war that had started decades earlier.

Come on, a dragon-human war? I had to go “back in time” and figure out more of that!

So I took a break from drafting and dug into some hardcore world-building, all reverse-engineering from those handful of scenes I had first drafted. I created the Scepters of Sekastra, four semi-autonomous city-states in different parts of the continent. I had to figure out where to put the dragonshifters, so I created the Cloudpeaks in the center and put the dragonshifters under the thumb of the totalitarian Pinnacle.

Since I’m a history buff, I wanted the Scepters to feature subtly different eras of ‘punk—Lacepunk (1700s Enlightenment period), Dieselpunk (1940s wartime), chromepunk (1920s with fast money), and then classic steampunk with all the trimmings. By giving the different Scepters different cultural preferences (Knowledge, Wealth, Pleasure, and Industry), I was able to explain the differences in fashion and technology. Basically, I could have my ‘punks cake and eat it too, as long as ultimately everything was grounded in steampunk, and I kept the differences subtle and organic.

Aha, but why the different preferences in each Scepter? Well, this is fantasy, so I wanted it to happen. 😉 But more than that, there might just be a missing fifth Scepter—the Scepter of Justice. And in the past, that Scepter of Justice might have had to make some drastic decisions to keep the peace on the continent. And unpopular decisions can sometimes lead to overthrow…

But for more information on that, you’ll have to read Lawless and the other upcoming books in The Ironfire Legacy!

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The salvation of humans and dragons lies within a convicted murderer.

Dragonshifter Kesia Ironfire has one goal—to redeem her past by serving the cruel dragon Pinnacle as a soldier in the dragon-human war.

Then a rogue mission to spy on a new airship explodes into sickening green smoke. The same mysterious green smoke that was present the night of Kesia’s crime. When her dragon overlords deny any involvement, she and her tactical partner Zephryn Nightstalker try to investigate--and are sentenced to death.

Still searching for answers, Kesia and Zephryn flee to the human military capital, where Captain Shance Windkeeper has been furloughed after the destruction of his airship. Eager to discover what--and who--blew up his vessel, he agrees to help Kesia and Zephryn infiltrate High Command. In exchange, Kesia must pretend to be his betrothed so Shance can escape an arranged marriage. If only she knew what ‘betrothed’ and ‘arranged marriage’ meant.

But human social customs are the least of her worries. Dark secrets surface as Kesia delves deeper--secrets that challenge the facts of her crime and undermine the war itself.

A steampunk fantasy adventure with a side of quirky romance and snark.

Preorder on:
Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo

PREORDER AN AUTOGRAPHED PAPERBACK HERE!

Author Bio
Janeen Ippolito is two authors for the price of one! She creates writing resources and writes speculative fiction with monsters, misfits, and mushy stuff. She's also an experienced author coach, editor, teacher, and the Fearless Leader (president) of Uncommon Universes Press. In her spare time, she enjoys sword-fighting, reading, geeky TV, and brownie batter.

A lifelong misfit, she believes different is beautiful and that everyone has the ability to tell their story. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at her two websites: janeenippolito.com and writeinsideout.com



There's a Cipher Scavenger hunt going on with this blog tour, so make sure you check out all the starred posts! (p/s, your clue's down below.)

Sept. 21* - Laura A. Grace - Unicorn Quester - Author Interview
Sept. 22* - Josh Hardt - Character Interview
Sept. 25 - Annie Douglass Lima - Realm Explorers
Sept. 26* - Anna Tan - Steampunk, Fantasy, and Cultures
Sept. 27* - Fanni Suto - Author Interview
Sept. 28 - Leanna Shields - Character Chat
Sept. 29 - Kessie Carroll - Book Spotlight
Sept. 30* - Bethany Jennings - Character MBTI
Oct. 1 - Melissa Sasina - Book Spotlight
Oct. 2 - Alexander Preston - Book Review
Oct. 3* - Kyle Shultz - Character Interview
Oct. 4* - Cathrine Bonham - FANtastic Interview
Oct. 5 - C. S. Johnson - Book Spotlight
Oct. 6 - Kara Swanson - Character Interview


Saturday, 23 September 2017

Saturday #worship setlist



I struggle. I don't want to do this. It's tiring, exhausting, I don't get anything out of it.

Yet, the reminder again is that this isn't for me.

It is, yes. But not alone.

In the end, it is for the church.