The Masque of Count Milado follows a man from Earth who sets off on a quest to retrieve the missing masque before it goes missing forever. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
I wanted to reprise characters introduced in “The House on Chambers Court”, though the challenge I set for myself was to write a traditional murder mystery. This book was an attempt to do that, and of course it’s a lot harder than it seems, the challenges of exposing the clues to both the characters and the reader in such a way as to move the story and keep everyone guessing.
Did you create an outline for the characters in the story before you started writing or did the characters personalities grow organically as you were writing?
Many of the characters in my book are based on people I know personally or in the public eye. Villains are easy to spot in the political and corporate spectrum. At least that is the root of their creation. It gives me a ‘face’ to work from, though once the book is under way, they really take on their own personalities.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Each book I write represents a particular challenge for me, in this case writing a murder mystery. I don’t want my books to be carbon copies of each other, though some themes run through each. A subtle part of the book is taking on animal perspectives and how they may be different from our own. Add to that, Xavier Gaines is faced with an additional perspective, the differences between men and women. Empathy is an important element of the magic involved.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
“The Wizard of Grimmer’s Wharf” has just been released (another mystery) and I’m well into the next book, “The Rift of Brande”. I’ve a great deal of experience sailing and so I wanted to write a ‘sea story’ involving adventure and lost treasure. I’ve reprised characters introduced in “Grimmer’s Wharf” and “The Henna Witch”. It looks to be a bigger book, perhaps rivaling “The Deck of the Numinon” in size. Of course magic is involved, which is also a great way to introduce some metaphysics into the story. Speaking of “the Deck of the Numinon”, which is wonderfully illustrated, I’m working with the artist to create an entire deck, providing the guide book to supplement her work. Fundamental excerpts were included as an addendum in “the Deck of the Numinon”. With a little perseverance on my part, both will be ready by the end of ’23.
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The Masque of Count Milado by GJ Scherzinger is a fantasy mystery centered around a powerful masque thought to be long lost. Xavier Gaines, a man from Earth who found his way to the magical world of Terranovae, has been asked by a friend to use his magical and physical abilities to retrieve this mask from Count Milado, who has acquired it. So Xavier sets off to infiltrate the count’s court with his wife and daughter in tow. Shortly after arriving, the count is found mysteriously dead, and the race is on to locate the missing masque before it’s lost forever.
This was a fantastic story. This world had excellent story building. There was some nicely done backstory that really brought the characters to life and made them richer. The magic was beautifully described. I love how each transformed state was kind of its own being and not the magic user in just a different form. They each had their own personality and were treated as such, complete with different pronouns. There was a beautiful mystery that I wanted to solve. There were twists I wasn’t expecting that kept me guessing how the story would play out. I got excited when things were revealed to me, making the story more engrossing. This kept me reading on, captivated.
The beginning has a slow burn as things get set up but really picked up as the plot progresses. I felt that it was redundant that every time Xavier became a tiger, the beast was described to us. Seeing as how it was the same tiger each time, I feel the initial description was enough to give us a clear picture of what it would look like from then on.
The Masque of Count Milado is a fascinating new fantasy novel with mythology and folklore elements. A world filled with magic, mystery, and mischief to keep readers engaged. I definitely want to read more of this world.
Pages: 267 | ASIN : B0B1P9YDW3
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Rasputin’s Scorn is the exciting new YA mystery novel by Courtnee Turner Hoyle. While the book’s exact setting is never really confirmed, it can be inferred from clues within the novel that the book is set in the modern-day or near future. This world is almost exactly like ours except for one big difference. A new street drug, Scorn, has appeared that grants people remarkable new abilities but comes at a significant cost. Users become increasingly bestial and suffer from terrible blood lust. Addicts are often thrown into camps by the government, never to be seen again.
Our protagonist, Rasputin, a straight-A student, is one such potential user. At 14 years old, Rasputin’s life is beginning to unravel. His loving mother is terminally ill, his mysterious father abandoned his family, and the girl he’s crushing on seems unobtainable. This leads Rasputin to go against his better judgment and steal a vial of Scorn from a local dealer. What follows is a roller-coaster ride as Rasputin is dragged into a centuries-old conspiracy where he must rely on his closest friends, Loila, Monique, and Aiden. But in this crazy new world, he’s discovered not everyone can be trusted.
Hoyle has worked as a teacher for many years, which shows in her writing. She really nails the young adolescent voice. Rasputin is immediately likable as the lead and easy to root for. Young readers will find many of Rasputin’s attributes relatable, making it easy to empathize with his struggle. This novel may be a mystery at the core, but Hoyle fills the book with many real-life problems. Rasputin has to deal with issues of bereavement and abandonment. At the same time, it is clear that someone close to him is a victim of domestic abuse while another has struggled with drug addiction. The reader follows Rasputin as he and his friends start to deal with their changing bodies and the genuine nightmares of middle school, making this a read that hits close to home. There’s a lot to unpack here, and there’s a lot to relate to.
Rasputin’s Scorn is a great young adult fantasy novel. It deals tactfully with issues many teens struggle with today. It’s also an excellent read for adults, and I look forward to reading the next book in the trilogy.
Pages: 197 | ASIN : B0B1Q3GXJJ
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God’s Greatest Miracle is the book you need to feel closer to God and connect with him. In the book, Jean-Michel Polyakov, through different tales, shares the actions of God and how he reveals himself through his people. God’s Greatest Miracle is a straightforward book and fun to read. The language in the book is simple, and the text is streamlined for young readers. Every sentence or phrase is precise and can be understood after the first read. I love how unambiguous the author made the text. Jean-Michel Polyakov’s simplicity with words inspires even kindergarten kids to embrace a reading culture.
In God’s Greatest Miracle: A Tale of Two Little Angels, we follow the story of a traveler who gets transported to a new country. This traveler meets an old man, and later a prince and princess. I loved the transition between the traveler’s transportation and his encounter with the prince ad princess. Jean-Michel Polyakov is a smooth writer, and every time a new character is introduced in the story, the reader feels like they have already bonded. The traveler is given tasks, one of them being sharing the tale of God’s Greatest Miracle. This is where it gets intriguing as the narration becomes more easy-flowing. The reader feels like they are part of the story thanks to the engaging nature of the writing.
The story of God’s Greatest Miracle was fascinating to follow and had dozens of lessons. The story of the two angels was touching. As a reader, you feel a shift in your thinking and get to be reintroduced to the love of God, knowing self, being kind, and living righteously. As you keep reading, you reflect on your life and resonate with the teachings. My favorite teaching in the story was about choosing good versus evil. Through this book, the reader can find pride in living morally and virtuously and ask for God’s guidance. I like that the author helped me connect with my inner child. In a way, the story of God’s Greatest Miracle makes the reader view everything with innocence and purity.
The concept of having a story within a story was genius. This helped with the comprehension and made the reading experience such a delight. I would recommend God’s Greatest Miracle: A Tale of Two Little Angels to readers that enjoy spiritual stories and anyone that wants to become closer with God.
Pages: 60 | ASIN: B09WJWKW2H
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Screaming for Pleasure by S.A. Bradley is a chilling book about the genre of horror. Bradley talks about all the physical and psychological benefits of experiencing horror for entertainment purposes. The author writes in a conversational tone and recollects events from his life that made him fall in love with horror. From his “First Kiss” with horror to dealing with the trauma of death, this book covers a lot of diverse themes about horror while including various anecdotes from the author’s life.
Children are fascinated with the forbidden; the thrill of seeing their first actual horror movie gets them hooked. From there, they seak out more thrills and scares. The societal conditions changing what we view as taboo or scary, advancements in technology, and special effects, have shaped how the author consumed horror movies. This personal and anecdotal nature of the writing gives readers an engaging and intimate experience as if they were sitting down with Bradley having a discussion.
One feature of this intriguing book is that the author talks about several movies that have come to define the genre, which serves as a great list of recommendations for anyone who wants to dive into the horror genre after reading this book. The author does a great job at striking the perfect balance between describing these classics enough to be able to talk about them but not so much as to give out any spoilers.
This thought-provoking book is not an academic analysis of the topic; instead, it is meant to spark an educated debate. It also serves as an introduction to those that may have shied away from horror in the past and gets them to look more deeply into horror as an art form, not just screams and scary monsters.
Screaming for Pleasure: How Horror Makes You Happy and Healthy is a psychological look into the genre from the perspective of societal norms and expectations to personal encounters and analysis. Readers that are interested in the history of horror and the role it has played in the entertainment industry will find this a fascinating book.
Pages: 290 | ASIN : B07HVHMQDW
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Bellerophon and Pegasus follow the Greek mythological story of Bellerophon, who had the rare gift of connecting with and healing horses, seeks help from Pegasus in a time of need. As the word of her talents spread across the land, she is asked to join the battle against the mythical beast plaguing the people, bringing destruction and death in his path. As a talented healer, she finds herself conflicted about how to help defeat it, and meeting what she perceives as a homeless man, she confides in him her struggles. The man, a light sorcerer, instructs her to sleep outside of Athenas to ask for help to bridle Pegasus to help defeat the beast “Chimera.”
Author Kim Slamka’s writing stands out amongst many other Greek Mythology stories I have read. The author has clearly done her research, and it shines through her flawless storytelling. The character development is one to commend as Bellerophon is a person that many can look up to as she is strong but also noble. I also enjoyed reading a story that contains a strong yet kind female protagonist. This is the significant difference in the retelling from the Greek tale of Bellerophon.
The book contains beautiful illustrations of the scenes taking place, and I was immediately captivated as they tell a story all on their own. The artwork looks like a painting and really gives readers an immersive experience when reading this awe-inspiring work. Even though this is a short read, this is one book you can read over and over while enjoying the marvelous art.
Bellerophon and Pegasus is a captivating read with a twist on Greek mythology. I highly recommend this beautifully written story to those who are looking to escape a few hours of their day to a mythical world. This would make a great introduction to Greek mythology for teachers as well.
Pages: 60 | ASIN : B09KYDQDQV
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Pleistocene – The Legend of Parakos is the debut novel by J.P Conrad and tells a story spanning millennia. It begins with the fall of Atlantis thousands of years ago and catches up with us in the 21st Century. Pleistocene starts with an ending, the destruction of Atlantis. Conrad paints Atlantis as a hyper-advanced civilization, much more advanced than we are today. Conrad doesn’t take much time to explain their technology, but one thing soon becomes apparent. Like modern society, they have become overly dependent on a single power source.
Despite multiple warnings, the Atlanteans have doomed themselves to self-destruction through their own greed. We witness this destruction through the eyes of Avis, a 12-year-old boy whose uncle (and guardian) is one of the engineers working on the said power source. Through Avis, we are also introduced to the Elvanelans, another hyper-advanced people whose technology is more akin to magic. Just as we are becoming acquainted with Avis, the book jumps ahead 12 thousand years and introduces us to Keats, a scientist in the 21st Century. The rest of the book follows Keats’ race against time to avert the environmental destruction looming over the modern world. During his journey, we discover more and more connections between the modern-day crisis and what happened to Atlantis thousands of years ago.
Conrad is clearly an environmentalist at heart, and the whole novel reads as a warning of what happens when society fails to look after the environment. Conrad is successful in his goal; the book is bound to make you think. Keats is in a race against time to save the world, which is reflected in how Conrad writes.
The narrative is speedy, breathless almost. Conrad rarely slows down to explain what is going on before Keats (and the reader) are thrown headlong into the following dire situation. This fast-paced action effectively instills in the reader that this is a race against time with high stakes. There are a lot of jumps in perspective as the author ties the two time periods together in the beginning. The jumps allow the reader to make the connections between the modern-day destruction of resources and the downfall of Atlantis.
Letters From Atlantis: Pleistocene – The Legend of Parakos is an exciting read with interesting ideas. If you like a fast-paced adventure, enjoy science fiction or care about the environment, then this is worth a read.
Page: 346 | ISBN : 1637671555
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Tales of the Monkey King is a retelling of classic Chinese tales of the famous Monkey King. What drew you to this folklore and inspired you to write a book?
I am of Chinese origin. We came to the US as refugees in 1950 when the Nationalist government fell. My mother told these tales to my brother and I and over the years I told them to the children of all our friends and they all loved the tales-especially the boys.
I decided it was time to write up these stories (in my mother’s words) for children and now my grandsons to enjoy. There are plenty of academically precise translations in several languages – but like all scholarly works, they aren’t much fun.
The illustrations were beautiful. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Gennel Marie Sollano?
I sent in the very amateurish and rough sketches I did years ago for the first edition and she took what she wanted for the illustrations. There was no direct contact, it was all done with Xlibris but I wanted to make sure the artist was recognized and so her name is clearly listed as the book illustrator.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
My introduction explained it all. This is a really well loved and well known set of stories in Asia. You tube has both the 1986 TV series (Journey to the West) and the 2000 (Journey to the West sequel). I belileve the Japanese did a very good cartoon rendition and there are endless movies and Chinese operas based on the themes.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I haven’t gotten started yet but am thinking of extracting interesting anecdotes from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (several TV series on 3 kingdoms which is also very well known in Asia). It’s sort of a practical rendition of how to apply Sun Tzu’s Art of war to win.
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