Sunday, August 28, 2016

Melanie's Week in Review - August 28, 2016




This is a unique WIR as I am writing it 10,000 metres in the air. I am writing this on my flight over to Canada going to my nephew's wedding. I didn't want you to miss out finding out what I read this week. So what did I read?

I was back to reading books from SPFBO 2016 and I am going to start with the book I enjoyed the most. I have found it interesting how many of the books that I have read during this contest are written for younger readers. I wonder why that is. Could it be that newer authors think that it is easier to market to tweens and teens or that they think it is easier to write for this audience. Anyway musing over.


The book I read that I enjoyed the most this week was The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree by Birgitte Rasine. The story is set in Guatemala where the eleven year old Max is on trip with his parents who are researching the local bee population. It's not long before Max befriends the local girl Ixtal and learns more about her community, the rainforest and more importantly about the cacao bean and chocolate production. After a few minor adventures Max and Ixtal end up angering one of the mystical beings of the rainforest when they inadvertently disrupt one of the ceremonies the elders perform to celebrate the cacao bean. Max, Ixtal and their new rainforest friends have placate the local gods before the cacao harvest is destroyed.

It is was obvious that the The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree was a labour of love for the author as it was so well researched and very well written. I did think it was a bit slow in parts and perhaps written is a more mature voice than what an 11 year old would have but I did enjoy it. I also enjoyed the free Spanish lessons that the author provided and the history lesson on the origins of chocolate.


Book 2 was Tayta's Return by Teagan Kearney. This was the story of the orphaned Tayta who was raised by her aunt. When the aunt takes ill with a mystery disease Tayta has to spend a lot of time in the hospital and in the company of the vampire Vance, who she hates. As the story progresses we learn that Tatya has special abilities that a part demon/vampire wants for himself. Tatya must team up with Vanse in order save herself from becoming the demons's slave.

I can't really say I enjoyed this book. It was a mix of boring and stereotypical. The protagonists were all very uninspiring and quite weak. Tatya flipped from hating vampires one minute to loving them the next. It felt like the author picked bits from different vampires novels and tried to mix them together. Everything seemed too familiar and quite frankly dull.


I am sorry to say that my third book Sebasten of Atlantis and the Forgotten Goddess by Olivier Delaye was a DNF. Again this was fantasy for a younger reader but this time neither the main character or setting captured my attention. I got 50% through but couldn't face finishing it. I think that SPFBO has impacted my ability to finish books that don't engage early on. I just can't rationalise spending time reading books I don't enjoy. Perhaps if I was a younger reader I may have enjoyed this story.





That is it for me this week. I will be missing next week definitely as I won't get much read next week and can't excuse myself from the wedding to write a post. I know crazy! Until next time Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Everfair by Nisi Shawl




The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.


Nisi Shawl

Everfair
Tor Books, September 6, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Everfair is a wonderful Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium's disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier. Fabian Socialists from Great Britian join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo's "owner," King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.

Nisi Shawl's speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner


Starspawn
AuthorWendy N. Wagner
Series: Pathfinder Tales 34
Publisher:  Tor Books, August 9, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384331 (print); 9780765384324 (eBook)

Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn is the latest in their popular novel series.

The sequel to Hugo Award Winner Wendy N. Wagner’s Skinwalkers! Once a notorious viking and pirate, Jendara has at last returned to the cold northern isles of her home, ready to settle down and raise her young son. Yet when a mysterious tsunami wracks her island’s shore, she and her fearless crew must sail out to explore the strange island that’s risen from the sea floor. No sooner have they arrived in the lost island’s alien structures, however, than they find themselves competing with a monstrous cult eager to complete a dark ritual in those dripping halls. For something beyond all mortal comprehension has been dreaming on the sea floor. And it’s begun to wake up...



Brannigan's Review

I'm back! I know I know all of my ones of fans have been crashing the site begging me to write a new book review, so thanks to Floyd in Briar Hook, Delaware for sending all of those emails and for your trailblazing social media campaign. Much love.

Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner was the best book for me to read to get me back into reviewing. It has pirates, natural disasters, a mysterious island crawling with all kinds of half-man, half-fish creatures. A Lovecraftian monster, treasure hunting, battles, creepy crawlies and even a dolphin being sacrificed to a dark god by the deep ones. I mean really!? What more could I want in one book. Nothing that's what. Now, lets get into the juicy bits.

The protagonist is Jendara, an ex-pirate mother of a mute son named Kran who's married to Vorrin, the captain of the pirate ship Milday. Jendara was in a previous book entitled Skinwalkers, also by Wagner. There are several mentions of past adventures that took place last year, which I assume is from the first book, but thankfully I never felt lost in this book. I was able to enjoy the current adventure without needing to go grab a copy of Skinwalkers, but if you're like me, you will want to read more about this crew. All right, back to Jendara. She's a very nice character: a strong woman, mother, wife and adventurer. Wagner did a great job balancing all the sides of this character and in the end helped her feel completely real and relatable.

The story starts off simple enough with Jendara and her son Kran on an island in an archipelago, when a tsunami hits and destroys most of her village. Right after the event, her husband and his crew of pirates arrive to offer aid, and explains that an island has risen out of the sea nearby and is covered in ruins and riches. Jendara and her son join the crew on a quick treasure hunt/exploration of the new island in hopes of using it to help the islanders recover from the tsunami. The rest of the story takes off from there. Kran and Vorrin both get enough time on the page to get a sense of their characters, but there isn't a lot of detailed information given. I truly believe these bases were covered in the first book along with the rest of the crew, which didn't bother me a bit. I had enough information about each supporting character that the story warranted. The island itself is the antagonist of this story with plenty of different creatures and groups causing problems for the crew. We get hints to this island's past, but a lot of it was left hidden, which added to the mystery.

Wagner knows how to weave a story. Everything starts off nice and calm, and then wham!, the action starts and it doesn't let up. She threads in plenty of mystery about the island, the people found there and their intentions. We're left to wonder about several different character's fates as the party explores the island. Wagner colors the story with just the right amount of humor to keep things from getting too dark and stressful, but doesn't ruin the overall mood.

My only complaint would be by the ending of the book there were five different groups on the island, including the crew, and I didn't feel I got enough of an explanation about the motives and means of each of the groups. Now, that's not saying the ending is unsatisfying or rushed. I just wish I knew a little more. Wagner gives different levels of information about each group so this is a sliding scale. Not withstanding this one issue, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. You don't always need to know everything to enjoy a book.

Starspawn is the type of book that brings out the kid in me. There's so much going on and written in such a way that each event builds on top of the other creating a crazy ride. It's books like this one that remind me why I love fantasy and renew my love for the genre. Just knowing there are authors out there writing books like this will keep me young at heart forever. For those of you who would like to know, there is violence and minor language. I would recommend it to teens and adults.





And for those who'd like to read Skinwalkers:

Skinwalkers
Pathfinder Tales 19
Tor Books, August 18, 2015
    eBook, 404 pages
Paizo Publishing, April 15, 2014
    Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

As a young woman, Jendara left the cold northern isles of the Ironbound Archipelago to find her fortune. Now, many years later, she's forsaken her buccaneer ways and returned home in search of a simpler life, where she can raise her young son, Kran, in peace. When a strange clan of shapeshifting raiders pillages her home, however, there's no choice for Jendara but to take up her axes once again to help the islanders defend all that they hold dear.

From author Wendy N. Wagner comes a new adventure of vikings, lycanthropes, and the ties of motherhood, set in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Spotlight and Giveaway - The Gate to Futures Past by Julie E. Czerneda


The Qwillery is thrilled to spotlight The Gate to Futures Past (Reunification 2) by Julie E. Czerneda as part of the #futurespasttour! Check out the fabulous giveaways below.



The Gate to Futures Past
Reunification 2
DAW, September 6, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

Second novel in the hard sci-fi Reunification series, The Gate to Futures Past continues the Clan Chronicles, perfect for space opera readers looking for unique aliens and interstellar civilizations.

Betrayed and attacked, the Clan fled the Trade Pact for Cersi, believing that world their long-lost home. With them went a lone alien, the Human named Jason Morgan, Chosen of their leader, Sira di Sarc. Tragically, their arrival upset the Balance between Cersi’s three sentient species. And so the Clan, with their newfound kin, must flee again.

Their starship, powered by the M’hir, follows a course set long ago, for Clan abilities came from an experiment their ancestors—the Hoveny—conducted on themselves. But it’s a perilous journey. The Clan must endure more than cramped conditions and inner turmoil.

Their dead are Calling.

Sira must keep her people from answering, for if they do, they die. Morgan searches the ship for answers, afraid the Hoveny’s tech is beyond his grasp. Their only hope? To reach their destination.

Little do Sira and Morgan realize their destination holds the gravest threat of all....




Previously

This Gulf of Time and Stars
Reunification 1
Mass Market Paperback, 480 pages
DAW, September 6, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, November 3, 2015

This Gulf of Time and Stars begins the hard sci-fi Reunification series, perfect for space opera readers looking for unique aliens and interstellar civilizations.

Sira di Sarc, the leader of an alien race hiding in plain sight among humans, must find a way to take her Clan home, in this trilogy within the award-winning Clan Chronicles series.

To save their world, the most powerful of the Om’ray left their homes. They left behind all memory of their past. Calling themselves the Clan, they settled among Humanity, hiding in plain sight, using their ability to slip past normal space to travel where they wished, using their ability to control minds to ensure their place and security.

They are no longer hidden.

For the Clan face a crisis. Their reproduction is tied to individual power, and their latest generation of females, Choosers, are too strong to safely mate. Their attempt to force others to help failed until Sira di Sarc, their leader and the most powerful of their kind, successfully Joined with a human, Jason Morgan, starship captain and telepath. With Morgan, Sira forged the first peace between her kind and the Trade Pact.

But it is a peace about to shatter. Those the Clan have controlled all these years will rise against them. Her people dying around her, war about to consume the Trade Pact, Sira will be left with only one choice. She must find the way back. And take the Clan home.





About Julie

Roger Czerneda Photography
Julie E. Czerneda is a biologist and writer whose science fiction has received international acclaim, awards, and best-selling status. She is the author of the popular Species Imperative trilogy, the Web Shifters series, the Trade Pact Universe trilogy and her new Stratification novels. She was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her stand-alone novel, In the Company of Others, won Canada's Prix Aurora Award and was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished SF. Julie lives with her husband and two children in the lake country of central Ontario, under skies so clear they could take seeing the Milky Way for granted, but never do. For more about her work, visit www.czerneda.com or visit her on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.





The Qwillery Giveaway

What:  Two entrants will each win a set of THIS GULF OF TIME AND STARS (Mass Market Paperback) and of THE GATE TO FUTURES PAST (Hardcover). That's 2 winners and 2 books per winner! US / CANADA ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below. Note that comments are moderated.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on September 8, 2016. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 13 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Spotlight and Excerpt - Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black


The Qwillery is thrilled to share an excerpt and more from J. Patrick Black's debut novel - Ninth City Burning!



Ninth City Burning
Ace, September 6, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 496 pages

Centuries of war with aliens threaten the future of human civilization on earth in this gripping, epic science fiction debut...

We never saw them coming.

Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.

But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.




Excerpt

The Valentine War, Earth 500 Years Ago

It starts with the world how it used to be, with countries and billions of people living everywhere. Back then there was no such thing as thelemity, and people built houses and machines sort of like they have in settlements today, but all of that changed when the Valentines came.

The reason we call them the Valentines is that the day they first attacked, February 14 on the old Western Calendar, was called “Valentine’s Day”. We still don’t know what the Valentines call themselves, because we’ve never been able to talk to them. We don’t even know what they look like. People had all sorts of different names for them early in the war, but “Valentine” is the one that ended up being the most popular. It used to mean something totally different, but not many people remember that now.

We never saw them coming. All at once cities just started disappearing. A city would be there, everything totally normal, and then it would be gone, nothing but rubble and a cloud of dust. By the time we figured out we were under attack, half the cities in the world had already been destroyed. We tried to fight back, but the Valentines had thelemity, and our strongest weapons were next to useless. They probably would have killed every single person on the planet, except for one thing: It turned out we could use thelemity too.




Cast of Characters

JAX: A cadet at the Academy and the youngest fontanus in Ninth City. With the ability to harness thelemity, Jax must stand for all citizens during Valentine attacks and act as the only defense between the city and complete destruction.

NAOMI: The youngest sister in the Ochre family, and a member of the nomadic Walker tribe. Naomi longs to be a scout like her older sister, Rae, but her undiscovered gifts will take her down a different path, far away from the life she knows.

RAE: The beautiful, impulsive leader of the Ochre family and a scout for the Walker tribe. Rae’s penchant for bravery and lack of fear plunge her into a new world, where her strength will be tested in ways she never imagined.

TORRO: A factory worker in Settlement 225, which provides supplies and soldiers to the Legion’s war effort. Torro’s uncomplicated life is suddenly disrupted when he finds himself drafted as cannon fodder and shipped away to the horror of the front lines.

VINNEAS: Procurator of the Academy, responsible for every cadet at the school of Grammar and Rhetoric. Part of being Procurator is being prepared for command in combat, but an unwelcome promotion sends him to active duty sooner than he expects.

IMWAY: The top ranked warrior in the Equites Aspirant, the most elite fighting unit in the Academy. Highly skilled in combat, Imway’s power stems from a suit of armor called ‘equus’ and the ego that comes with it stands the chance of ruining any relationship he has.

KIZABEL: The most sought after Artifex—a creator of artifices—at the Academy. Her most recent project violates many rules, and Kizabel faces expulsion or incarceration if caught. But her project will revolutionize equus design, if she can only get it running.


Together, this unlikely group of allies will face a mysterious enemy and a war that has brought their world to the brink of destruction.




About the Author

Photo by Beowulf Sheehan
J. Patrick Black has worked as a bartender, a small-town lawyer, a homebuilder, and a costumed theme park character, all while living a secret double life as a fiction writer. While fiction is now his profession, he still finds occasion to ply his other trades as well. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he likes to visit the ocean. NINTH CITY BURNING is his first novel. Find out more about J. Patrick Black online at www.jpatrickblack.com