Kelvin and Elizabeth grew up in different places, both taught that they were the only people to survive the Dark Days; but they start to question their pasts when they hear strange tales that suggest otherwise. When fate brings them together, it creates more questions than answers: Will Kelvin uncover enough of the mysteries in time to free his home from the evil man who rules it? By following an ancient map to the last resting place of the mysterious fourth Founder of Triopolis, he hopes that the information he seeks will be revealed. When an accident forces Elizabeth to flee with Kelvin, they find themselves on a path that leads him home. During their journey, they discover an ancient race of people who have unbelievable powers over the natural world. Will Elizabeth and Kelvin learn how to fight off the evil that threatens their own existence?
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Underlord of the Netherworld once again brilliantly melds age old wisdom and youthful spirit into a daring tale of life after Peter Pan. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
In Legends of the Pan 1 (Essence of Neverland):
I wanted to create something multicultural that would help empower children and young adults around the world. This evolved into explaining life balance and human nature; how forgiveness allows personal growth; and how each one of us has the power to create an immense and lasting change in the lives of others.
In Legends of the Pan 2 (Underlord of the Netherworld):
Tolerance of others different from oneself permits the exploration of different points of view within the fascinating scope of human experience. Appearances can be deceiving, and people can change. Friends can become enemies, and enemies can become friends. Most people have the need to improve themselves and their environment, but it depends on one’s values as to what the outcome will be. Impermanence can be our greatest ally if we focus on the goodness within.
The invasion of Malomen, a swarthy society of bloodlusting sea creatures, has brought with it the tides of war. What was your inspiration for these creatures?
I love the sea, aquariums, and scuba diving. I spend hours next to a large aquarium while I write. Many times I stop and marvel at the marine life. While writing this book, I paused to observe the beautiful designs on the skin of a large plecostomus. It made me think about mudskippers that have adapted to land and sea, and then a race of Malomen was born in my mind.
Underlord of the Netherworld earnestly explores the powers of communication, compassion, and community. What morals did you try to capture while developing your characters?
In Legends of the Pan 1 (Essence of Neverland):
I chose four children to be gifted the power of the Pan. The fairies selected them because they each had a special inherent nature. Kuthanda is endowed with love, Dobráta with compassion, Khwam Glaohán with courage, and Rakaná with creativity, which is the literal meaning of each child’s name in their native tongue. Each child was from a different country, raised in a different belief system, and suffered the loss of loved ones due to a different tragedy. These children found happiness because they chose to move on with their lives, keep an open mind, and lose themselves in the service of others instead of wallowing in self-pity.
It is with our thoughts and volition that we create our personal worlds. It is up to each individual to decide which path will be taken. Even if one discovers the chosen path was a mistake, he or she can change direction at any moment, learn from the mistake, and continue to grow, which is what Captain Hook, Chief Najoshi, and Chief Adagash managed to do.
In Legends of the Pan 2 (Underlord of the Netherworld):
Tolerance of others different from oneself permits the exploration of different points of views within the fascinating scope of human experiences. Appearances can be deceiving, and people can change. Friends can become enemies, and enemies can become friends.
Reichi’s innocence gave him the compassion required to save all of the islanders above and below the sea. He could not be swayed to commit an evil act or cause harm since he had never been tainted by the negative affairs of men.
After many years Najoshi had learned to forgive past trespasses, and have compassion for all living beings, tempered with wisdom. He had decided to remain steadfast in his beliefs, even in the most dire circumstances. The chief, his queen, and their children understand the connectivity of all things, the great power found in unity, and that education is the path, which leads away from ignorance and primal instincts.
Will there be a book three in your Peter Pan series? If so, where will it take readers?
Yes, I’ve started writing Legends of the Pan 3. It begins ten years after where we left off in book two. The Merpeople, Malomen, and humans have thrived through cooperation and education. However, several things from their past, which originated in book one and two, are about to come to light to haunt them.
Peter is gone, causing the decline of Neverland and a struggle for power. This once abundant world of dreams come true, soon converts into a place of violence and evil without the positive influence of the Pan. Many have gone missing and none can escape its shores. Neither pirates, nor Indians, or Merpeople and fairies have the magic it takes to defeat the demonic darkness that threatens the very existence of every man, woman, and child living on the island. Can anything save them from this pending doom before it is too late? What can prevent Neverland from becoming void of any hope as it turns into a barren wasteland eventually consumed by the sands of time? Perhaps the answer lies within the essence of this mystical isle, inspiring the hope and motivating the action needed to save them all.
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A coming-of-age tale set in 1975 New York during Tom Wolfe’s “Me Decade”, Stainer follows the misadventures of a naïve Jewish Columbia University student named Benjamin Steiner, who, on the night of his 21st birthday, meets not only the sweet girl of his dreams, a lovely young lady named Rebecca Glaser, but also an unprincipled drug-loving rogue from Princeton called P. T. Deighland. As the days pass, Ben’s immature inability to resist temptation and an overwhelming need to be “cool” gradually cause him to fall under Deighland’s malign influence until, at an impossibly glitzy Princeton party, he encounters and becomes spellbound by a ravishing but predatory high-fashion model named Anthea Montague.
When Rebecca returns from an unexpected overseas trip, Benjamin’s unreasoning jealousy over her friendship with another boy casts a shadow on their budding relationship. A series of rashly imprudent decisions abetted by Deighland and the model leave Ben feeling guilty and angry. At an ill-fated summer barbeque, he wrongly explodes at Rebecca and soon plunges headlong into a reckless self-destructive downward spiral, culminating in a horrific confrontation with Anthea Montague that brings his life crashing down in ruins.
Against the background of a vanished period in American history, Stainer offers a bittersweet nostalgic trip back to a less complex world, during a time of incautious excesses that, while deceptively fun and carefree, in due course forced many unwary youngsters like Benjamin Steiner to learn some necessary – but terribly painful – lessons about growing up.
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The Essence of Neverland is a bold and imaginative tale of pirate battles, formidable fairies, territorial conquests, and unexpectedly, the power of community. In this continuation to the timeless fable of Peter Pan, author Juna Jinsei thoughtfully ushers the Lost Boys into their darkest era yet – the death of Peter Pan. The painful absence of the infamously green-tighted trickster is being felt all across Neverland, leaving friends and foes alike grimly fearing for the future of the lands. As the disruption of harmony begins to threaten all walks of life, age-old enemies must contemplate rewriting their own roles in history, lest all of Neverland become a fairytale entirely.
I feel obligated to admit that Peter Pan was a staple bedtime story in my childhood home. While my father enjoyed boastfully voicing out the comical mischief between Peter and the pirates, I personally always loved the popular legend for its emotional tone. There was something whimsical and charming to the tale, always gently reminding me to appreciate my youth and my family. Even as a child, I recognized that the adventure was steeped in wisdom and parables. In this particular imagining of life in Neverland, author Jinsei beautifully explores many of those same wisdoms, delving into the emotional grips of desiring a place to belong, and missing a home you may never return to. Jinsei ponders these perennial truths through her work with such charm that I read several passages aloud to my partner, wanting to share the touching eloquence of the lessons.
Even with its strong repertoire of life lessons, this novel is admittedly a little dark at times. Jinsei unapologetically crafts the characters to feel authentic to their human nature, respectively. Captain Hook’s surly, albeit loyal, band of pirates are burdened by grief, consumed by thoughts of revenge. The once crafty and playful Lost Boys have grown old and jaded, nostalgically wishing in vain for the return of their impish flying companion. Even the council of magical fairies, as hopeful a creature as one could imagine, have become nervous for the future and harmony of Neverland. In the beginning chapter, Peter Pan’s unexpected death is a severe moment, paving the way for a few other harsh and unfortunate occurrences throughout The Essence of Neverland. Jinsei has an undeniably natural hand for the “twisted fairytale” style, and I loved the boldness of this rendition.
Still, despite the reoccurring macabre tones, The Essence of Neverland remains persistently hopeful and surprisingly lighthearted. Jinsei’s illustrative writing style really shines through the four brave children that serve as the main protagonists. Hailing from various backgrounds and regions, they each find themselves being summoned to the Mother Fairy, the eternal essence and spirit of Neverland. Although they’ve each suffered great losses at tender ages, they bravely begin their journey of growth with such earnesty and ambition that it’s impossible not to root for them whole-heartedly. My kudos to Juna Jinsei for such sincere writing!
Pages: 377 | ASIN: B015QV5C3M
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Miss Sally by Robert Joe Stout is a portrait of a young girl growing up in Texas in the 1930’s. Through trial and error 13-year-old Sally Halm finds out about sex, relationships, and what it means to engage in this behavior without love. She painfully learns what it’s like to be a woman in rural Texas during the great depression and how the church expects women to behave. After patterns of abuse, devastating discoveries, and misguided adventures she learns what it means to be saved and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
My initial reaction when I began reading this book was one of excitement. I love history, and the 1930’s are one of my favorite eras because of how much was going on across the country. The Great Depression left a tremendous impact on the families affected. After getting a few pages in, however, it was difficult for me to place myself in the characters shoes.
This story gets better as it progresses and when I was further in I was unable to put it down. The writing style while not my favorite was engaging as the characters started to come to life. I especially enjoyed how Mr. Stout wrote Sally’s relationship with her mother. The relationship felt realistic to me because of my own experiences as a 13-year-old and how my mom and I got along.
Sally is a simple minded girl, she is not beautiful, and her family treats her this way. While her sisters, Judy and Hill’ry are thought to be beautiful. As a result of the treatment, she receives Sally has a low self-esteem and her sisters, lovers, and her imagination can quickly persuade her into things she doesn’t want to do. Through all of this, I noted that Sally still seeks the approval of her family and loves them very much.
Sally eventually becomes more curious and finds herself in trouble. After being landing in a church revival, one woman’s story sticks out to her in a way so profound she doesn’t feel she has done wrong enough to be saved by the Lord. She paints her own picture of this woman and believes she has to be like her to be truly saved. This event along with her sister’s encouragement lead to Sally’s dark fate. After what seems like years of abuse and bad decisions Miss Sally goes with her mother to be saved but is once again given the short end of the stick.
Sex and coming of age are two major themes in this story, and Mr. Stout’s rural writing style helps with the setting. Had this story been written any differently the plot wouldn’t have made sense. It was compelling and painted a strong picture of life for a young girl at that time.
Pages: 291 | ASIN: B071HL6YMJ
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Stainer by Iolanthe Woulff truly lives up to being a novel of the “Me Decade”. Set in 1975, we follow Ben Steiner, a Jewish Columbia undergrad who at his core is a decent person but wishes to be “in” with the “in crowd.” On the night of his twenty-first birthday he attends a party that will change his life forever. He meets P.T. Deighland, a wiseass from Princeton, who is clearly up to no good, and Rebecca Glaser who he falls for immediately. His new-found friendship with Deighland and his own youthful temptations lead him to make escalating bad choices that may not only harm his budding romance with Rebecca, but expose this alternate life to the rest of the Jewish community. It is a classic journey of self-discovery, but one with a lightness of humor that keeps it from becoming too dismal.
Woulff does a wonderful job with blending the scenery of 70’s New York City with the strikingly personal conflict of Ben Steiner. The cultural tropes of the Jewish community come into full play and provide the initial conflict of the individual strikes out away from the old traditions of his culture. The fact that Ben lives in a converted residence hall with other Jewish scholars from Columbia. He thirsts for the experience outside of his roots that has been denied to him all these years, and turning twenty-one he feels that he is empowered to do so.
In some ways, this novel is very much the spiritual successor of Catcher in the Rye, but considering it is about the 1970s, it feels much more relevant to our present age. I found the pacing to be a bit of a slow burn, since it weaves this inner journey that Ben must make in order to reach the final beats of the narrative. Woulff provides a story with rich character development, which is impressive for a book that is trying to tackle not only personal conflict, but societal conflict and the social statements at large. Ben suffers from the divide his life takes after the party, where he hides pieces of his life from his Jewish friends.
The book is particularly polished, which is enjoyable and Woulff’s attention to detail and the interiority of her characters to be particularly good. It is also such a wonderful tale of how we can sometimes self-sabotage ourselves and not be able to see the “good” that is often right in front of us.
Stainer presents itself as a coming of age work and one that I think all ages should be able to enjoy. YA readers may take a particular pleasure in reading this novel.
Pages: 345 | ASIN: B071G8KFX1
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Breaking Magic takes place in a world where people are genetically engineered for jobs and no one is able to question their function in society. What was your goal when you started and how did it change as you were writing?
This question is interesting, because I’m not really a plotter. The details of each story tend to evolve as I’m writing, and in the case of Breaking Magic, things changed a lot. What the villain did to recreate the world of Imbera according to his own evil design was more complicated than I originally expected. It allowed me to be quite creative in terms of my protagonist’s journey. My goal was to show that everyone has unlimited potential – no matter what society tells them, or the obstacles they face. That did not change, but the story behind it certainly did!
The story follows Callax, one of the workers, as he struggles to overcome his predetermined life and learns more about the world. What was your inspiration for his character?
Callax is the storyteller, and he shares what he learns and the emotions he is feeling without much of a filter! He gets scared sometimes and he says the wrong thing as often as he says the right thing, but he’s brave and determined too. I wanted Cal to be someone the reader could relate to and care about.
In Breaking Magic the Opta are the ruling class and the Exta are the workers. What themes did you use to develop these two contrasting groups?
The overriding theme is the importance of hope, even in the face of the impossible odds that the Exta are facing. The Opta needed to appear invincible, so their leader, the Breaker, is an intelligent antagonist. The Exta are not allowed to grow up, they are engineered to be only fragments of their potential selves, and his magic uses a sinister combination of joy and pain to disorient them. Yet they never quite stop hoping, and this gives them the strength to fight.
How does this book fit into your Legacy of Androva series and what is next for Callax?
Breaking Magic was a great opportunity for me to take a minor character and bring him into the limelight in a standalone book. I expect that Cal will turn up again at some point, but for the sixth book I am writing Galen’s story. Galen is a seventeen-year-old Androvan magician from Seeking Magic, the third book in the series, who abandoned his world two thousand years ago for love of a Terran girl. I plan to return to the core series in the seventh book!
Callax is fifteen, and he already knows he won’t ever grow old. Twelve years after leaving the childstation he will be summoned to the Gathering, where life essences are taken by a deadly, irresistible spell. On his world, this is one of the many ways in which the Exta serve the Opta. His best hope is to avoid an early binding by staying out of trouble.
But in protecting his younger brother Benedar, he was noticed by the Breaker, the evil magician in charge of the Gathering. The closer Callax gets to the ruling house and the girl who lives there, the more he learns, and the greater the danger. A danger he might not understand until it is too late. Callax thinks the Breaker’s defeat will save him, but he is wrong.
Additional information: Although Breaking Magic is part of the Legacy of Androva series, it can also be read independently. If you have read Controlling Magic and want to know more about Imbera, Breaking Magic is Cal’s story. The book retells part of Controlling Magic from Cal’s point of view. Recommended for lower young adult.
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For Their Sins, written by Rebecca Tran, is based on the life of Alexandria Diego, a woman born in 1707, as the descendant of angels. She is a born warrior but with her skin surviving the burn of the sun, she will be destined to breed. Bearing the responsibility as the gem of House Diego, Alexandria’s life will be filled with life altering decisions and consequences. Alexandria will fight for both her family and honor, training and leading warriors into battle as she continues to rise her house to ultimate power. But twisted romances and secret affairs lead her on a destructive path where she will find herself in a battle of revenge when she fights to rescue her love from the enemy.
For Their Sins begins with Alexandria Diego as a child where she learns the ways of her house through history, science and religion. Born an angel, her life is determined by the path that she chooses to follow, whether it is to be someone who can bear children or someone who is a warrior. Some can face the sunlight, others can’t and these traits can determine the rules of how you live. But love, lust and the urge to be something more will create Alexandria into the wonderful warrior that she becomes.
Expect a mix of supernatural and adventure with beautiful women giving birth at 400 years old and in place of milk, blood will feed these baby angels. There are religious tones throughout the plot line as it dips into discussions about the creation of mankind, God and the existence of angels. We are taught about the creation of vampires and thrown into a world of coachmen and swords where bloodlines and heritage can determine which house you belong to.
At times the story line will seduce the reader, as Alexandria learns the lines between lust and love through exploring her friendships. In an almost primitive style, there are battles between those who wish to have the strongest male or female to breed with, to ensure their line will continue throughout history. Love mixes with politics and the characters become mixed up within following their heart or following the urge to rise to power instead.
Rebecca Tran’s way with words will tug at readers heart strings through strong themes and emotional experiences that the characters endure. The plot line feels like a roller-coaster at times with shocking events and twists that will left me feeling unnerved at the unexpected outcomes. Occasionally the story felt slow, only for a shocking event or twist of the plot to happen which drew me back in for more.
The story moves through history, first beginning with sword fights and eventually entering a period of cell phones and guns. Mixed through the historical events are relationships and lustful connections that will influence the politics and wars that occur when they face enemies such as the Morderes.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a supernatural story crossed with action and a twist of romance.
Pages: 428 | ASIN: B0716SVRDS
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Breaking Magic is the fifth book in the Legacy of Androva series. This emotional story takes place in the world of Imbera. The inhabitants are on an island and divided into two classes, the Opta and the Exta. The Opta are the ruling class, old, never aging, living a life of luxury. The Exta are the workers, made to work, sorted into units and worked to the bone until the age of eighteen when they are gathered by the Opta for nefarious purposes. For two thousand years, this has gone on. It is only when Cal starts remembering things that the world takes a dangerous turn.
In Breaking Magic, the story focuses on Callex who is a worker, in the lowest of the units, repairing roads and buildings, cleaning, and other hard labor. He cannot read or write, but he is physically strong. All the Exta’s are paired with an older child. Things start going astray in Imbera when Cal picks up his new little brother and discovers Benedar is a thinker, not a worker like him.
With the help of his friends Cal soon learns that everyone is genetically engineered to contain certain traits to make society function. When otherworlders appear in Imbera they learn of magic and spells and start to uncover their own pasts and hidden locked away parts of themselves. But with this new revelation comes a price and they must discover how to save their world.
Alex Vick creates a dramatic novel by expanding on Cal’s story in the Legacy of Androva series. Cal’s character slowly develops through the story, each new layer being pulled back as the story progresses, leaving you with a fascinating character in the end. The bond that is formed within the circle of friends brings the reader in and makes them a part of the group. You are on the edge of your seat waiting for the next clue so you can help Cal and his friends uncover the next missing piece of their world. Like the Exta’s, the reader learns more with each passing event. It’s all brought together with a compelling narrative that makes it difficult to put the book down. Breaking Magic is an entertaining and drawing novel for both young adult and adult readers, it will captivate you and give you hope for society. It shows that just because things are one way, doesn’t mean things can’t change, and just because your told your one thing, doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to always be that thing. Breaking Magic is a novel of hope and overcoming inner struggles and is a fantastic read.
Pages: 330 | ASIN: B071H5ZWDQ
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Physical follows two women, Fatima who has given birth to twins in London and Kiki who finds herself stuck and alone in Northern Italy after her boyfriend leaves her for an ‘upgrade’. What was the inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
This novel was inspired by a wine-fueled conversation between two close female friends discussing the past five years of their lives. Like in the book, one had given birth not too long ago, and the other one had recently been ditched by a long-term boyfriend. Both were distraught at the sharp decline of their self-esteem and loss of their identity in a matter of months. They exchanged passionate words of rage and desperation which grew more caustic the more they drunk. Just before collapsing from alcohol intoxication, they homed on actionable lessons from their almost opposite yet very similar experiences: desire was still ablaze inside them; sex continued to matter; and whatever else slightly alien seemed to be hijacking their lives, they deserved to seek physical fulfillment. The rest, is fiction.
Emotions run high in this book and you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. What were some themes you used when developing your characters?
On the side of Kiki, I was eager to explore ways in which a middle-aged female could cope with rejection including the weight of factors such as aging, the yearn for children, and the clash with societal pressures and surrounding family and friends. Of course, I also wanted to look at the role of sexuality and how it changes with age, and whether physical desire can remain determining even as mature life becomes more complicated.
On the side of Fatima, I focused on the potential result of taking away freedom and independence from a successful middle-aged woman, trapping her in a new ‘silent’ world. I wanted to push Fatima to the edge and see where she would run to re-find herself, and how much she would risk to regain happiness. I toyed with betrayal and whether it could be therapeutic and serve a purpose, as well as with a mother’s/wife’s guilt for her own selfishness versus her right to want fulfilment of all kinds including physical. I wanted Fatima to consider whether love means total trust and what trust actually means.
I felt that Kiki was sabotaging herself a lot through the story. Do you think this is reflective of her character as a whole or is this just a phase she’s going through?
Kiki is a woman of a different time. Full of ideas and ideals. Passionate and righteous but who has never been allowed to believe in herself too much. She would like to leave Italy but doesn’t find the courage. She would like to step out of her parents’ influence but loves them too much. She knows she’s very different from her friends but not sure she could do without them. She’s deep down uncertain of what she wants from men, but at times feels pressured she should follow every female’s ideal of marriage. She’s a strong doubter with a good heart for whom things finally work out. We need more Kikis in the world, for sure.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Morte a Pisa: LIPS, LIGHT & LYRE will be out in June. It is a thin book with a trio of reflective short-stories around female death following a weekend in Pisa. The next full-length novel will be Caro M, where a lover misses her beloved Caro M after being abandoned; a wife is steered through her divorce from husband Caro M by her sweetheart psychiatrist; and a young girl has landed a fairy tale wedding to groom Caro M that soon becomes a nightmare her cousin wants to help fix. Naturally, someone somewhere will be the end of Caro M…
In a small town in northern Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in trendy London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalising desires that will bring them to risk everything…
Themes covered in the novel include rejection, identity, betrayal, freedom and the right to happiness. The tone is humorous on the face of distress, often rejoicing in the terror of lives out of control.”
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