Tag Archives: fantasy

Fantasy Book Review: A School for Unusual Girls

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Synopsis:
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies-plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible-until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads-or their hearts….

Review:
Georgie is a bright girl who has a penchant for science, much to the chagrin of her parents. The would rather she behave like a lady, instead of burning down their barn while trying to develop an invisible ink. The Stranje House is no finishing school, as her parents believe. Instead, it caters to remarkable young women who don’t necessarily fit into society’s conventions.

A School for Unusual Girls is a brilliant series debut set in Regency England. This first installment revolves around political intrigue and drama. It was nearly impossible to put down. The characters are as fascinating as the time period. And the plot is full of danger, suspense, mystery, and a bit of mysticism. And the ending only left me wanting more. I look forward to the next in this impressive new series.

Fantasy Book Review: Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison

Synopsis:
In all of Tyme, from the Redlands to the Grey, no one is as lucky as Rapunzel. She lives in a magic tower that obeys her every wish; she reads wonderful books starring herself as the heroine; her hair is the longest, most glorious thing in the world. And she knows this because Witch tells her so—her beloved Witch, who protects her from evil princes, the dangerous ground under the tower, even unhappy thoughts. Rapunzel can’t imagine any other life.

Then a thief named Jack climbs into her room to steal one of her enchanted roses. He’s the first person Rapunzel’s ever met who isn’t completely charmed by her (well, the first person she’s met at all, really), and he is infuriating– especially when he hints that Witch isn’t telling her the whole truth. Driven by anger at Jack and her own nameless fears, Rapunzel descends to the ground for the first time, and finds a world filled with more peril than Witch promised … and more beauty, wonder, and adventure than she could have dreamed.

Review:
Rapunzel lives a happy, secluded life. And she has no desire to stray from her tower. Witch loves her and gives her everything she could want. But when young Jack climbs up to her and claims he’s been there before, Rapunzel realizes some of her memories have been erased. She thinks she’s protecting Witch, when she follows Jack back to the fairies. But along a necessary quest, Rapunzel discovers the truth about Witch and her life.

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel is the first in a new, fairy tale series, called Tyme, for middle readers on up. Rapunzel is annoyingly ignorant as the story begins, but she grows wiser as she meets new people and learns more about the world around her. The other characters are clever and fun. Full of suspense, mystery, danger, drama, and a bit of humor – Rapunzel’s adventure is captivating from beginning to end. And there is a wonderful twist ending that will fairy tale fans will love. I look forward to the next in this promising series with plenty of heart.

Fantasy Book Review: Five Kingdoms: Crystal Keepers

Five Kingdoms: Crystal Keepers by Brandon Mull

Synopsis:
Cole Randolph ventures to a new kingdom as he continues his search for his friends—and also pursues his quest to mend what has gone awry with the magic in The Outskirts. Can he overcome the challenges ahead, or will he be stranded forever in a world between reality and imagination?

Review:
Cole and his companions travel to Zeropolis, a land where technology has overcome magic – very similar to our world. In fact, they have stolen a lot of our technology and adapted it. And in some areas they have exceeded ours. This kingdom is very different from the previous, and the characters are as well. Since there is little magic, the technology shines – especially in the case of some strong IA characters.

Crystal Keepers is the third installment in the Five Kingdoms series. Cole and his friends are trying to helm Mira find her sisters, while Cole also searches for his friends from back home that were sold into slavery. This latest kingdom was very engaging – with plenty of mystery, intrigue, drama, and surprising twists I didn’t see coming. This series just keeps getting better. I eagerly await the next in this magical series.

Book Giveaway: The Originals: The Resurrection

Courtesy of the Harlequin Teen, I have a copy of The Originals: The Resurrection by Julie Plec for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends June 12. I’ll draw a name on June 13, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Book Giveaway: The Originals: The Resurrection

Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention Cover Reveal

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Author Spotlight and Cover Reveal: J.Scott Savage
Author Note:
Like many of my books, the inspiration for my new series Fires of Invention came from the collision of two ideas. The first time the story occurred to me was while I was watching the musical Wicked with my wife. The moment I walked into the theater and saw the huge mechanical dragon above the stage, I thought, Wow! I have to write a story about that! A few weeks later, I was talking with my nephew, who is probably the most creative kid I know, but whose inventiveness often gets him into trouble, and I thought, What if a kid who had the talents of my nephew lived in a world where creativity was against the law? What if the kids were building . . . a steam-powered dragon? Bam! I had my story.

Powered by great feedback from my agent, Michael Bourret, my good friend and author James Dashner, my publisher, Chris Schoebinger, and the song “Warriors” by Imagine Dragons, I wrote the entire first draft of the first volume in the series, Mysteries of Cove in four weeks. This book is unlike anything I have ever written. There are elements of City of Ember, Dragon Riders, and Hugo in it all mashed up together in a world I fell in love with from the moment I started writing.

I think what’s most exciting to me about this book is that it’s about giving yourself the freedom to imagine. To take chances. Too often we limit ourselves by only trying things we’re confident we can succeed at when what we need to do is give ourselves permission to fail. Often it is when we attempt things with no idea of how we can possibly pull them off that we achieve our greatest successes.

Book Description:
STEAMPUNK! Plus Dragons!
Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion-an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlikely anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on-and quite possibly their very lives.

Author Bio:
J. Scott Savage is the author of the Farworld middle grade fantasy series and the Case File 13 middle grade monster series. He has been writing and publishing books for over ten years. He has visited over 400 elementary schools, dozens of writers conferences, and taught many writing classes. He has four children and lives with his wife Jennifer and their Border Collie, Pepper, in a windy valley of the Rocky Mountains.

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/J-Scott-Savage/55805743891
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/jscottsavage
INSTAGRAM: jscottsavage
WEBSITE: www.jscottsavage.com

SciFi Book Review: Omega City

Omega City by Diana Peterfreund

Synopsis:
Gillian Seagret doesn’t listen to people who say her father’s a crackpot. His conspiracy theories about the lost technology of Cold War–era rocket scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg may have cost him his job and forced them to move to the middle of nowhere, but Gillian knows he’s right and plans to prove it.

When she discovers a missing page from Dr. Underberg’s diary in her father’s mess of an office, she thinks she’s found a big piece of the puzzle—a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg’s greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her skeptical younger brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and Howard, their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off on a journey into the ruins of Omega City, a vast doomsday bunker deep inside the earth,

But they aren’t alone inside its dark and flooded halls. For while Gillian wants to save her dad’s reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg’s secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried . . . forever.

Review:
Gillian and her brother Eric are good kids with an eccentric father. But even after their father being discredited, Gillian and Eric believe in him and his work. So when his new girlfriend seems a bit too suspicious, the siblings and a few friends begin to track down clues to Dr. Underberg’s secrets before anyone else can.

Omega City is first in a new trilogy for middle readers. Fast-paced with plenty of mystery, suspense and humor – science fiction and adventure fans of all ages will appreciate this exciting story. The book details compare it to The Goonies and The City of Ember – and I agree. In fact, the characters reminded me a lot of The Goonies – which made me love it even more. And the underground facility felt a lot like The City of Ember . The combination of strong characters and an intense plot made for a highly enjoyable read.

The Girl at Midnight Blog Tour

Echo’s Top Five Heroines
by Melissa Grey

In The Girl at Midnight, my seventeen-year-old protagonist, Echo, lives in the New York Public Library and has since she was seven years old. Naturally, she’s spent a good chunk of her wild and reckless youth reading. Here’s a list of Echo’s favorite heroines from fictional worlds, in no particular order.

1. Claudia, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Echo’s original role model. She came across this book in her elementary school library and she loved it so much she may have “forgotten” to return it (every thief starts somewhere). Claudia runs away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which inspires Echo to take off on her own and set up camp in the gorgeous main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

2. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter – Sometimes, brute force isn’t the best way through a problem. Sometimes, the best solution is a combination of books and cleverness. Like Hermione, Echo enjoys devouring knowledge from all across the spectrum, because hey, you never know when you might need to whip up a Polyjuice Potion to save the day.

3. Éowyn, The Lord of the Rings – A woman born into a world of suffocating expectations who defies convention to become a warrior so fearsome not even the Witch King stands a chance? What’s not to love?

4. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games – The benefit of living in a library is that you get to read all the best books before they’re checked out forever (seriously, try borrowing The Hunger Games these days, you’ll be on the wait list for ages). Katniss scrabbles together a meager survival and goes to the ends of the earth to protect the people she loves, something Echo knows a thing or two about.

5. Morgaine, The Mists of Avalon – This Marion Zimmer Bradley classic has it all: action, adventure, romance, heartbreak, and of course, complex, nuanced female characters. Morgaine, also known as Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend, is a powerful priestess fighting to preserve’s her people’s place in the world against the overwhelming tide of patriarchy. And that’s something Echo can get behind.

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Courtesy of Random House Children’s Books, I have a copy of The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends June 5. I’ll draw a name on June 6, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading The Girl at Midnight Blog Tour

Josh Vogt Guest Post and Giveaway!

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Not the Face! – Making Fight Scenes Mean Something
by Josh Vogt

Confession time: I love writing fight scenes. Why is that something necessitating a confession? Well, I guess I’m saying it in a “sorry, but not really sorry” manner, but there are both readers and writers out there who tend to see fight scenes as little more than fluff—non-essential or cheap ways to add tension and conflict to the tale. They’re the skimmable portions of the prose, and you might as well just flip to the end to see who survives and move on to the actual important parts.

Are there books where the fight scenes are nothing more ways to pad the novel or bridge the gap between Point A and Point B? Sure. But they don’t have to be that way, nor does a fight scene have to be the answer to [INSERT CONFLICT HERE]. So how does one keep a fight scene from being nothing more than page and plot filler?

Make it About More than the Violence
Violence for violence’s sake gets boring fast. It becomes mere spectacle, like the endless explosions and pointless clashes in the Transformers movies. You have to answer the question, “Why are they fighting? What’s the point?” If you can’t answer that, even on a base level, your scene may be in trouble. Give the fight a purpose and, when possible, make it more than just simple survival. Yes, living is a good thing, but at least look at what instigates the conflict in the first place and have it hold substance.

Give it Real Stakes
If your characters get tossed into fight after fight without any real consequences—physical, mental, emotional, or otherwise—then your readers are going to quickly learn that the fight scenes don’t actually matter. Everything will return to the status quo as soon as the last enemy is laid low. I’m not saying you have to go to G.R.R. Martin lengths and slaughter half your cast in the first chapter, but at least consider what the cost of those fights is going to be in both the short and long-term.

Enter the Janitor - Cover
Use it to Spur Change
What changes about your character in the midst of a fight or in the aftermath? What realizations do they have about themselves or others when in the heat of a battle? Are they aware of what they’re truly fighting for? Are they using the physical outlet as a way to vent or process inner pain? Is winning (or losing) the fight going to give them the chance to grow or overcome a personal failing? Fights are dynamic events, and so can inspire new perspectives and attitudes in participants.

Know When to Skip the Action
Wait, if we’re talking about writing fight scenes, why am I suggesting we jump past them? Because sometimes the action doesn’t have to be directly shown. Fight scenes can be too heavily choreographed, denoting every twitch and touch back and forth. Yet this can bog down story pacing and become more about the author showing off than actually moving the plot forward. A fight might be conveyed in a mere line or two, or the scene can jump directly to the fallout without running the risk of getting lost in unnecessary details. Start asking yourself if seeing the whole fight is actually essential or if anything would be lost if most or all of it was cut.

And yes, I will argue that fight scenes can be worth writing purely for the fun of it! Just like we can sit back and enjoy a good action sequence in a movie, there are those who enjoy well-crafted fights in books. However, if the story relies on little more than constant fighting to keep things moving, then it may be time to reconsider what missing elements those scenes are trying to compensate for or distract from.

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About the Author:
Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

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Courtesy of the author, I have a copy of Enter the Janitor for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends June 5. I’ll draw a name on June 6, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Josh Vogt Guest Post and Giveaway!