Fantasy Book Review: Cryptozoology for Beginners

Cryptozoology for Beginners by Matt Harry

Synopsis:
Only six weeks after a handful of teenage sorcerers defeated a team of anti-magic mercenaries called the Euclideans, Trish, Owen, and Perry are called back into action when they discover that the world’s cryptids (aka magical creatures) are disappearing. They’re partnered with brusque team leader Jacinda Greyeyes and their former nemesis Bryan Ferretti in a mission to travel all over North America, collecting famous cryptids like the jackalope, the chupacabra, and the altamaha-ha.

But when another team of teenage sorcerers suddenly vanishes, the spell casters set out for Germany, Egypt, and the Seychelles to uncover why the Euclideans have been abducting and experimenting on magical creatures like the unicorn and the sphinx. The secrets they uncover threaten to divide them, and reveal a truth that will permanently upend the way the world sees sorcery.

Review:
Cryptozoology for Beginners is the direct sequel to Sorcery for Beginners. The novels are written as a story, but with fun facts that make it feel like a guide as well. The young teens are novices in magic when they learn it’s up to them to help protect Earth’s mythological creatures. There are a lot of diverse creatures highlighted that make this book a lot of fun. Trish, Owen, and Perry gain a couple more teammates as they are tasked with collecting cryptids. But it seems like the Euclideans are always right behind them. The characters have grown, despite the annoying and bullying Bryan. I was a bit confused on why there’s so much focus on the kids coupling up in what seems like a Middle Grade fantasy series. The book isn’t written with a young adult feel, despite YA romance (both straight and gay), so I was put off a bit. But the story is fast-paced and full of adventure and suspense. There are a couple of big surprises along the way that add to the dramatic aspect. And a climactic finale leads to an ending that doesn’t disappoint.

Book Giveaway: Doctor Who: Star Tales

Courtesy of BBC Books, I have a copy of Doctor Who: Star Tales by Steve Cole for one lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends December 13. I’ll draw a name on December 14, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

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OFFICIAL TRAILER RELEASE: V Wars

V WARS premieres December 5, 2019 on Netflix!

SYNOPSIS:
Dr. Luther Swann (Ian Somerhalder) enters a world of untold horror when a mysterious disease transforms his best friend, Michael Fayne (Adrian Holmes), into a murderous predator who feeds on other humans. As the disease spreads and more people are transformed, society fractures into opposing camps pitting normal people against the growing number of these “vampires.” Swann races against time to understand what’s happening, while Fayne rises to become the powerful underground leader of the vampires.

Based on Jonathan Maberry’s best-selling books – first published in 2012 by my client IDW Publishing – about a genetic mutated outbreak that leads to the first vampire vs. human war, “V Wars” stars Ian Somerhalder.

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SciFi Book Review: Shatter War

Time Shards – Shatter War

Synopsis:
Earth’s past, present, and future have shattered in “the Event,” yielding a terrifying new world of prehistoric monsters, lost cultures, strange technologies, and displaced armies. Coming from different points throughout history, a desperate band of survivors join “Merlin,” a mysterious figure who may be their only hope to save the world–if he can be trusted.

When their twenty-third-century ship the Vanuatu is sabotaged by an unknown enemy and thrown far off its course, the team must discover who is responsible, even as they are split apart and fight to survive in the war-torn Shard world.

Review:
In the first novel, Time Shards, the story was mainly just getting to know characters and monstrous creatures killing several of them off. This sequel is more plot-driven, as the surviving group on Merlin’s ship try to help him fix the world, with time running out. There is just as much suspense as before, but even more riveting. And I enjoyed the different locations as well as time periods this time. And the characters are complex and engaging. I really enjoyed this fast-paced sequel, maybe even more than the first. And I look forward to the next in this exciting series.

SciFi Book Review: Across the Void

Across the Void by S.K. Vaughn

Synopsis:
Commander Maryam “May” Knox awakes from a medically induced coma alone, adrift in space on a rapidly failing ship, with little to no memory of who she is or why she’s there.

Slowly, she pieces together that she’s the captain of the ship, Hawking II; that she was bound for Europa—one of Jupiter’s moons—on a research mission; and that she’s the only survivor of either an accident—or worse, a deliberate massacre—that has decimated her entire crew. With resources running low, and her physical strength severely compromised, May must rely on someone back home to help her. The problem is: everyone thinks she’s dead.

Back on Earth, it’s been weeks since Hawking II has communicated with NASA, and Dr. Stephen Knox is on bereavement leave to deal with the apparent death of his estranged wife, whose decision to participate in the Europa mission strained their marriage past the point of no return. But when he gets word that NASA has received a transmission from May, Stephen comes rushing to her aid.

What he doesn’t know is that not everyone wants May to make it back alive. Even more terrifying: she might not be alone on that ship.

Review:
Across the Void immediately reminded me of The Martian meets the Netflix show Another Life. May wakes up on a seemingly empty ship with only the AI to help her get back home. And both have memory loss. We also get frequent flashbacks of the past leading up to the Hawking II launch. A couple times it was a bit confusing, trying to figure out when the scene was supposed to take place. But it did flow well, as the reader learns along with May what happened in her past and in her current situation.

This standalone, scifi novel was a lot of fun. There is plenty of drama and intense suspense. The story was engaging and plot-driven. It’s an impressive-sized book, and though not always fast-paced it kept my attention. And though a couple things were predictable, it didn’t lessen the tension. The climactic ending builds to an exciting and satisfying ending.

Gail Z Martin Guest Post!

Epic Vs. Urban—Writing Both Sides of Fantasy
By Gail Z. Martin

Swords or shotguns? Grenade launchers or catapults?

How about both? (Though not, usually, in the same story.)

I write epic fantasy and urban fantasy—along with alternate history and comedic horror—in time periods ranging from medieval to Victorian to modern. Sometimes people ask if it’s difficult, jumping around time. For me, it’s all part of the fun.

This year, we had a bumper crop of books coming out on both sides of the genre. Vengeance is the second book in my Darkhurst series about three undertaker brothers who become outlaw monster hunters and discover there is a much bigger conspiracy than they ever expected. The Dark Road is the second in the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, tracing the story of the brigand lord through his time as a mercenary, fight slave and smuggler. Assassin’s Honor is the first in the new Assassins of Landria series, as King’s Shadows Joel Breckenridge and Garrett Kennard go rogue to save the kingdom from a shadowy itinerant holy man who has ensnared the aristocracy with treasonous whispers.

Plot and characters aside, the books are all very different. Vengeance is ‘big fat fantasy’, with multiple point of view characters, several braided story arcs, a big cast of characters, and a truly epic scale. The Dark Road is a serialized novel from Jonmarc’s point of view, told in an interconnected collection of short stories and novellas. Assassin’s Honor is buddy flick epic fantasy, under 300 pages, and rocks the ‘Butch and Sundance as medieval assassins’ vibe with humor, action and intrigue. I really like switching up how the story is put together, even though all three are technically epic fantasy due to their scope and the medieval setting.

The same is true for the urban fantasy side of the writing. Tangled Web is the third novel in the Deadly Curiosities series, set in Charleston, SC. When a malicious weaver-witch awakens the spirit of an ancient Norse warlock and calls to the Wild Hunt, Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren—and all their supernatural allies—will need magic, cunning, and the help of a Viking demi-goddess to survive the battle and keep Charleston—and the whole East Coast—from becoming the prey of the Master of the Hunt. Close Encounters, the fourth novella in the Spells, Salt and Steel series (co-written with Larry N. Martin), takes a snarky-scary approach to monster hunting in the wilds of Northwestern Pennsylvania with mechanic Mark Wojcik. And the upcoming Sons of Darkness (launching in November) has ex-priest Travis Dominick teaming up with former FBI-agent Brent Lawson to tackle demonic threats in and around Pittsburgh.

Once again, the series are all different not just in their locations, but in the novels’ structure. Tangled Web is told from Cassidy’s first person point of view and often straddles the line between urban fantasy and horror. Close Encounters is also first person, and decidedly snark-filled, in between supernatural chills. Sons of Darkness is told from both Travis’s and Brent’s viewpoints, and also blurs the line between horror and urban fantasy. The tone of the writing and the character voices, as well as the setting, distinguish the series from one another.

Read moreGail Z Martin Guest Post!

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