George MacDonald’s Castle Warlock is many things: a mystery, an adventure, a coming-of-age story, a celebration of the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, and a revelation of spiritual truth. At the novel’s center are two unforgettable characters, young Cosmo Warlock and his father, the Laird of Glenwarlock. Michael Phillips captured the essence of this Christian classic when he wrote that “most striking of all is the love which exists between Cosmo and his aging father, in the heart of which pulsed the earliest attraction of the boy toward the heartbeat of God himself.” MacDonald’s extensive use of the Scots language has been a stumbling block for many readers—until now. This is the only edition of Castle Warlock that features English translations side-by-side with the complete original text. The translator, Scotsman David Jack, has provided an insightful preface, all of the original 19th century illustrations are featured, and the introduction is by best-selling author and preeminent MacDonald expert Michael Phillips.
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Strange Bedfellows: Fun with Etymology uses a unique brand of humor to show readers how fun etymology can be. What inspired you to start this series of books?
I am primarily a wordplay writer and have published over 200 articles of assorted styles of word play in the online journal Word Ways, not all humorous. Within the general category of word play, my favourite type is constrained writing of various ilks. My two Strange Bedfellows books use the constraint of using only words that are etymologically related to construct fun phrases and sentences. I then embellish them with my own weird sense of humour in explaining or more often simply extending the SB thoughts to a more free form of humorous expositions and stories.
The idea of using pools of etymologically related words as a type of constrained writing came to me when I noted, in Eric Partridge’s wonderful etymology dictionary Origins, what a huge number of interesting words are surprisingly ultimately related to ‘legend’. From there I devoured Origins looking for other pools of relatives offering interesting combinations. I collected many and managed two volumes of the constructions from them as skeletons on which to overlay my personal style of humour and nonsense. The latter is heavily influenced by the writings of Will Cuppy as well as Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, James Thurber, Ogden Nash, Dr. Seuss, Edward Lear and others.
What is the collaboration process like between you and the illustrator, Kalpart?
Kalpart is the company name of a commercial art collaboration headed by Kalpa Joshi. For my books, I describe to her the images I visualise and she is very compliant in revising her first efforts to capture them until they meet my wishes. Other of her artists usually do the final coloured illustrations. I couldn’t ask for a more cooperative artist. She does, however, often make suggestions that I like and let her use.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
Joy! Plus a sense of the inevitable ambiguity of words, phrases and sentence that allow puns and other twists to amuse and/or expand the reader’s perspectives. (Oops, that two things!)
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have two upcoming books, both being sequels to my Silly Animal Rhymes and Stories A to Z (‘SAR1′, 2018), profusely illustrated in colour by Kalpart. They use a different type of constrained writing, monorhyme verses on animal themes, which I call animal uni-verses.
- 101 Animal Universes, unillustrated and with limited prose addenda, finished and seeking a publisher as a ‘pure’ poetry book. Hence the release date is unknown. It includes some of the best verses from SAR1 and the following (SAR2) plus many more mostly new universes.
- Silly Animal Rhymes and Stories: Zoo Two, in press, text approved and awaiting the rest of Kalpart’s brilliant illustrations, half finished. It should be finished and released in 2-4 months but possibly longer. This and my three recent books are self-published by SBPRA, the fifth (101AU) hoping to find a regular publisher, but failing that, again to use SBPRA.
I also have three other books firmly in mind, all partly written, the second two illustrated:
- a short small book of embellished Spoonerisms;
- a commercial satire Dr. Duck’s Dealy Deli based around an enterprise and characters that clutter the pages of my other five books; and
- a rewrite of an old self-illustrated volume from 1979, Anno Dodo, a humorous satire cum word play on the theme of extinction.
Posted in Interviews
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McKenzie Stark’s Divide and Conquer is a beautiful story of love and healing. It follows the life of teenager Freya Sawyer after the tragic death of her father. Overwhelmed by grief, she goes down a destructive path that eventually lands her in Arkadia Academy – a school full of delinquents.
But while she is originally irritated by this turn of events, joining the academy marks the start of her journey of healing, self-actualization, and love. She meets new friends, revisits long-abandoned talents, and finds love in the most unexpected of places. By the time the story ends, you can’t help but be proud of how far she has come.
Like in many love stories, Freya is challenged by betrayals and outright abandonment. However, she keeps going forward and eventually pulls herself together to build a meaningful life– a strong marker of how much she has learned to love herself. In this regard, the author does a good job in avoiding the cliché narrative of a heartbroken protagonist whose entire life falls apart at the loss of a romantic interest.
It is also quite heart warming how the author addresses the issue of Freya’s grief, how it has affected her decisions and how her healing correlates with a better sense of self. Coupled with how she ties this all up with Freya’s use of art for expression, this creates a holistic view of who Freya is and who she is capable of becoming.
Author McKenzie Stark has written an emotionally-charged romance novel with a solid plot and a riveting premise. While I enjoyed this novel, I thought the switch in perspectives sometimes made it hard to follow. I think I would have enjoyed the story more if it kept one perspective throughout the book. The author infuses their own voice into the story, guiding readers and telling us what will happen.
Divide and Conquer is an impassioned romance novel that is punctuated by suspenseful moments and filled with intriguing characters. Recommended for readers who want to read a rousing and sentimental love story between two alluring characters.
Pages: 289 | ASIN: B08R6PR5RT
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Andar is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story, told from the point of view of a juvenile wolf, Kalamu, who is travelling a bleak landscape with his old parents in a desperate search for food and water. This story reads as if intended for the young-adult market, but with frequent use of strong language I would recommend this adventure story for a more mature audience.
The sense of tension is well-drawn, with danger lurking behind every mound of earth. There is no reprieve from the violence and the sense of impending doom, so there is little hope to be found in the barren moors the family is crossing.
The landscape, tone and plight of the wolves remind me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. While the writing overall is very good, there is an occasional odd phrase that could be cleaned up to keep the fantastic atmosphere intact.
The fight scenes are plentiful, but they are sensitively told with excellent description of injury and death without wallowing in the gore. The dialogue, too, is skillfully written and an important element in characterizing the fearful young wolf, his protective mother and distant father. While I reveled in the engaging dialogue it was sometimes hard for me to tell who was speaking.
The tension in the story is high and the suspense is drawn-out in this coming-of-age story but I would have liked to have seen Kalamu grow a bit more. However, he does seem to find some hope at last, although at the highest of costs. Andar is a riveting fantasy adventure novel with excellent atmosphere, dramatic tension and sensitive characterization.
Pages: 87 | ASIN: B08W8QFQ78
Tags: adventure, Andar, author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, coming of age, ebook, fantasy, fiction, Fulris, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, post apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, read, reader, reading, story, suspense, writer, writing
The Claviger, by Rayo Scala, is a science fiction thriller based on the clavigers, an elite group of combatants who have been reincarnating over the last hundred centuries keeping intact all knowledge from past lives. They are on an important mission to protect mother earth from centuries of destruction posed by humanity. Considered aware reincarnates, the clavigers die and get reborn at around roughly the same time and by the time they are teenagers meet and greet each other reminiscing all previous knowledge. They are expert tacticians, master craftsmen, and linguists who have been interfering with events around the world over centuries to maintain natural balance and harmony on earth.
In present times, FBI agents Egan and Kun along with homeland security Talib and Alma are on a mission to crack down claviger operations. The clavigers possess powers to hack into systems, conduct sting operations, and kill their enemies to disrupt world trade and economies. These traits make them a formidable challenge for the mafias across many developed nations who send in teams to encounter them. However, our protagonists must find a way to discover the real motives behind claviger operations.
The Claviger is a thrilling story with a fantastically detailed backstory. The character developments in this story are methodical and well defined and every character has a unique arc that comes to fruition at the end. The author has bridged the gap between the past and the future using detailed narratives. Vivid imagery has been used to describe memories in flashbacks and there are many historical as well as mythological references. Advanced weaponry, conspiracy theories, and fast-paced action give readers a mix of James Bond and Stars Wars-like vibes.
The interaction among the characters is another unique feature of this plot. The clavigers tend to talk among themselves with a mix of old Shakespearean English while our protagonists speak modern English with cuss words. This helps readers easily understand the mood in the chapters. I enjoyed how secrets and mysteries were slowly revealed throughout the story, and this slow delivery keeps the suspense consistently high. The mix of science fiction and historical events create a conducive environment for a big revelation at the end.
The Claviger tells an imaginative and riveting story with a one-of-a-narrative. Readers who enjoy stories that combine history, action and subtle science fiction elements will find plenty to enjoy in Rayo Scala’s suspenseful-action adventure novel.
Pages: 259 | ASIN: B081F69PHR
Tags: action, adventure, alternate history, author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, historical fantasy, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, Rayo Scala, read, reader, reading, science fiction, story, suspense, The Claviger, thriller, writer, writing
Surviving Chaos details your difficult childhood, the obstacles you faced, and how you came to terms with it all. Why was this an important book for you to write?
It was a surreal childhood that was full of failures, disappointments, and humiliations. I felt a need to share the stories as a way to gain victory over the demons that tormented me for such a long time. By telling my journey I hope to help others to relate, understand, and prevail against any obstacle or dysfunction.
I appreciated the candid nature with which you shared your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
Losing my mom! I wanted give her more than I did so I had to swallow my sense of failure as I wrote above her.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Schizophrenia, Parental neglect, and being a constant Outcast.
What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?
If you know of anyone with a mental condition do try to get them help.
Don’t overlook the effects it may have had on those around the person with the mental challenges especially the offspring’s. Next, even while I was mentally bound I found time to laugh. You can always find a way to turn lemons into lemonade if you just keep stirring.
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Eli Pope is back with the second installment in The Mason Jar series, The Spark of Wrath. In the second book, we continue to follow the Cader family saga. The youngest son of Billy Jay Cader, Darrell, is grappling with his abusive upbringing and becoming a young adult. The fact that Jay is back in town doesn’t make Darrell’s struggles any easier. As we watch Darrell try to come into his own and his father make more questionable decisions, we can only hope for the best outcome. Will things improve for the Caders’? Find out in The Spark of Wrath.
Once again, Pope did not disappoint in the slightest. He is a master when it comes to writing about human emotions and childhood trauma. He possesses a deep understanding of the human condition and consistently displays that in his work. First, let me start by saying how much I appreciated the well-developed side characters. Something many authors struggle to do is implement side characters that add value to their story. The interactions our main characters had with side characters like Chubbs, Kyle, Violet, and Joyce added a richness to the overall story.
I feel that Pope’s ability to write realistic neuro-divergent characters offers an educational lesson to his readers about some of the plights people in this world experience. In the story, we acknowledge Jay has a past that could make him behave the way he does – but his behavior is not excused. He is the perfect illustration of a narcissistic parent who cannot recognize his own wrongdoings, but everyone else around him does. He has an “I receive pain; I give pain” narrative. The execution of this part of the story was superb.
I enjoyed the role Mitzi B played within the story and felt that with some fine-tuning she could have been perfect. My problem with her character stems from the way she talks about boys and herself. The way she spoke sounded like what middle school boys think girls talk about when they have a slumber party. Other than the narrative voice of Mitzi B, this novel is perfect.
If you’re looking for a fantastic family saga series or a stirring psychological thriller, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Spark of Wrath and The Mason Jar series.
Pages: 250 | ASIN: B08YXF74WF
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Robinson, IL is a collection of very short stories by Dennis Milam Bensie that explore life on the path less traveled. Classified as flash fiction, the stories are only a few pages long, but still manage to imbue enough emotion to be powerful and thought provoking, a fact which speaks of the talent the author possesses. Most of the stories focus on the LGBTQ community and the difficulties that come with it, both externally and internally. The tone of each one varies as much as the subject matter and ranges from somber, to flippant, to absolutely wild, and everything in between. There are even a few that have an almost science fiction feel to them. Overall, the author’s ability to convey so much in so few words is remarkable, as the more serious of his stories really make you feel the self doubt and angst that is a part of growing up and accepting who you are. The less serious ones are no less interesting and will leave you definitely wanting more of the world he’s created. And what would a book be without a touch of humor? There are unexpected laughs sprinkled throughout and when they do happen, they come naturally, again showcasing how easy the author conveys everyday slices of life.
The LGBTQ themes are explored from multiple perspectives in the collection. In one, it’s a son looking for assisted living placement for his gay father. In another, parents are trying to help pay for their child’s gender reassignment surgery. Often, the tales are told in the first person by someone within the community, sometimes happily, sometimes at odds with themselves. The variety of voices and perspectives add depth to the very human emotion and dilemmas that are presented.
While it’d be easy to say I wish the stories were longer, I really believe that their length is a huge part of their strength. The bite sized portions of humanity move quickly, but stay with you long after their few pages are done and leave you imagining so much about the characters. Robinson, IL is a stirring and well crafted collection of fictional short stories that find strength in their brevity while still delivering thought provoking commentary on life.
Pages: 123 | ASIN: B08ZCZVKSF
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