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The Alexandria Scrolls

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Tuya has lived a fascinating life. As a young girl, she met Mother Nyla and the course of her rather mundane life changed forever. One harrowing event after another peppers Tuya’s life, and she handles each of them with all the fortitude of a woman who has lived a thousand lifetimes. Tuya is both curious and determined, and she uses her past to guide her forward. Wise well beyond her years, she manages to survive an event that destroyed her home and start over on her own.

The first book in the Alexandria Scrolls trilogy by Lukman Clark is titled In Her Own Words. This novel is a retelling of the story of Hypatia of Alexandria. This exceptionally detailed fiction tale written in the form of an autobiography follows Tuya through her life beginning at the age of eleven. Readers are treated to a thorough look at Tuya’s life and are able to follow her from childhood well into middle age. Clark has done an amazing job of detailing his main character’s experiences for readers. Through her various name changes to her ultimate identity as Hypatia, Clark’s main character meets fascinating personalities from a seer to Theophilus who becomes immediately taken with her.

Clark’s work is descriptive, historically accurate, and holds vivid imagery which gives readers beautiful mental pictures of Tuya’s surroundings and her incredible journey through time. The fact that Clark chose to use his main character’s voice to tell her story only serves to make this an even more compelling read. The focus on the library of Alexandria makes this book both unique in its genre and a must-read for history buffs.

The author has included an ideal mix of narrative and dialogue. While the exchanges between characters are poignant, at times there are breaks from the time period, and the characters’ words sound more modern than one would expect. There aren’t too many of these instances, but there were enough that I found them to be distracting and took a little away from the story.

I recommend Clark’s work to anyone who enjoys reading about ancient Egypt but prefers to absorb it in narrative form. Clark’s main character, who comes to be known as Hypatia, carries the story from beginning to end and will fascinate readers throughout the book. It is clear that Clark has done thorough research and turned Tuya into a character readers will not soon forget.

Pages 265

True Love Never Runs Smoothly

Helena M Craggs Author Interview

Fire & Magic is book two in The Younglings series. What were some new ideas you wanted to explore in this book that differed from book one?

Stakes are higher in Fire & Magic. The Younglings are under attack, and have some major trials and tribulations to deal with, as well as normal teenage life. The joie de vivre that teenagers have is inspiring. But most teens can experience many difficulties in their day-to-day lives, and—like Shadows & Magic—I feel this book is the messy, real deal. I wanted to show The Younglings mature and grow, and watch their bonds of friendship develop and strengthen. Would you give your life to save a friend?

I’ve also introduced some interesting new characters, into Fire & Magic.

Love is a huge thing for teens, and some unexpected relationships develop. Of course, true love never runs smoothly, and we have several relationship issues. Will they be resolved? You will need to read the book to find out.

Eve and Quinn have matured in this book. What were some obstacles in this book that you felt were important to defining their characters?

For Quinn, as a half-demon, he is constantly worried about becoming evil, and as a result, his self-confidence suffers. Can an angel truly love a demon? In this book, we watch him grow in confidence, and trust that Eve loves him unconditionally. As for Eve, she is a feisty, strong female lead, and this develops throughout the book. A badass half-angel who won’t tolerate BS.

What scene in the book did you have the most fun writing?

I think the final chapter. As well as being sensual, without being explicit, the coming together of Eve and Quinn is beautiful on so many levels.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website

Protecting innocents in the mortal world is not a job to be taken lightly, and life for the Keepers is spiralling back to Crazyville. The Supernatural Council has their back, but it’s chaos out there.

Stranded spirits, rogue vampires and demons are bad enough, and now merciless witch hunters are stalking Millie.

Eve’s angelic blood is like a siren call—one a tenacious vampire tracker cannot ignore.
Are things for the Keepers about to turn messy?

It’s hard to know who’s the good guy and who’s the enemy. Monsters don’t always have claws or fangs, and they’re not always in the shadows. Sometimes they hide in plain sight.
Can the Keepers protect their own?

Praise from The Younglings: Shadows & Magic
“Author Helena Craggs expertly crafts a brilliant young adult novel and navigates the reader through first loves, sexuality, friendship, and familial unity.” (Literary Titan)

“Craggs’ ability to pull me into the world she created and keep me turning the page and second guessing myself was just brilliant. If you love supernatural books. This is a must from me.”

“Whether you are into demons, angels, vampires, witches, or werewolves – or merely just teens being teens – this book ticks all the boxes.”

I Had The Most Amazing Dream

Angie Bailey Author Interview

Believe follows a 13-year-old girl who is transported to the land of believers and magic, where she meets new friends and embarks on a great new adventure. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My inspiration actually came from a dream I had. After previously self-publishing two books relating to my time during the COVID pandemic, a friend asked me if I’d ever thought about writing a novel. Having only written the diaries, poems, and short stories before, I didn’t believe I had the ability to write a novel.

Then, one night I had the most amazing dream about a crazy holographic professor who ate sticky, sparkly-green Christmas tree marshmallows, and Professor Mortley was born. I sat down to write about him, and my mind was flooded with all the characters from Believe and their stories. My fingers couldn’t type fast enough.

I felt that kids everywhere had had such a tough time with the pandemic and all the other horrors and difficulties going on in the world today, that I just wanted to write a world for children and adults to escape to and warm their hearts. Believe was written to bring big, beautiful smiles to all its readers.

Abigale starts off life in the world of grayness and non-belief and becomes one of the believers. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I want to convey to the reader that it does not matter where you come from or what you were before, if you believe in yourself, you can do anything and achieve anything. Having grown up and loved Disney my whole life, I wanted the characters to emulate the Disney feel. I wanted the good to be very good but be floored enough to be tempted by the bad, and the bad to be bad enough to dislike, but still, show signs of hope that one day they will change.

It was really important to me that the characters displayed real feelings. For example, how even the best of friends can sometimes be envious of each other and that we can all make bad decisions for the right reasons.

Abigale, especially, needed to hold the driving ideal that even though she was born a Never-Believer, that deep within her if she believed in herself and believed in her friends, one day she would find where she truly belonged.

I think when writing family, magical fantasy books, as Believe is, there is a delicate dance between including enough reality for readers to relate to and enough magic for them to escape and be wistful about. I hope that Believe has achieved all these ideals.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The power of friendship and its many forms was an important theme for me, as well as the ability for friends to feel like family. I want to convey that friendship is a powerful and beautiful relationship for both the young and old, even if the relationships are not always smooth sailing. I wanted to show that friends forgive, love, lie, share, and cry, they catch you when you fall, surprise you and inspire you. And those relationships that have the peaks and the troughs, are the ones that are the strongest.

I also want to share that you should never judge a person until you have walked in their shoes. Aunt Violet goes through a massive transformation throughout the story and is miles from where her character first starts out. People can change and people hide very well what was always there from the beginning. You just have to look hard enough.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have just finished the first draft of the second book in the Believe series. I am hoping that it could possibly be ready for release by Christmas, but I see where the editing takes me. I am super excited as it has taken the characters on an amazing journey, and I have included some twists and turns that hopefully no one will see coming!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

‘Believe’ is an utterly captivating first novel in a series that will lead you on an irresistible journey into the magical world of Believers and Never-Believers.
Abigale Johnson was born a Never-Believer, in a world full of greyness: no Christmases, no birthdays, no smiling and most definitely, no magic. That all changes with a fateful train journey when Abigale is catapulted into the world of the Believer Fae. A crazy, holographic professor, an enchanted train, and new magical best friends, combined with the tinkering of first love, a wicked queen and a host of lost family secrets all await you, in a story that is likely to become part of your heart forever.

Rasputin’s Scorn

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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The Swords of Blood and Gold

When Jon Sherman, who is part of the Deep Blue Marine Exploration Crew, has a disagreement with his boss he finds himself left without a job. Jon’s teammates find five chests at the bottom of the ocean that prompts a supernatural killer to murders the entire crew. Jon becomes the prime suspect and he must team up with his boss’s daughter to find and defeat this supernatural killer and prove his innocence.

Author JCR Paulino has created an exciting story with likable characters which make this a book that is hard to put down. The characters are well developed and I enjoyed the evolution of their characters. I was always interested in seeing how the characters would react to certain situations. Natalie’s character is a pleasant addition to the story because she is smart, sharp and a no-nonsense type of woman. She is a stand out character for me personally, but in this ensemble story it’s easy to find characters you’ll relate to.

This is a riveting adventure story, as well as a paranormal thriller, and you can really tell that the author has done his research when it comes to deep-sea diving and treasure hunting. The details are what really make this story feel real, even with the supernatural elements the gritty details keep this story grounded.

The author’s writing is sharp and effortlessly keeps this suspenseful novel moving forward. I had a hard time finding a place to put the book down, especially when Jon and Natalie embark on their deep-sea adventure. As the story progresses we get to see Jon and Natalie’s relationship blossom into something that is heartwarming and sweet.

A story like this has an inherent sense of adventure, but the author is able to draw you into a world that feels like that sense of adventure is just a foundation for a more compelling character driven story; which makes me think ‘what if Michal Crichton had written an India Jones book’?

While this is a fast-paced thriller I enjoyed the emotional moments in the story because I felt like that is what gave this story heart, where otherwise it would have just been an action adventure novel. Couple this with vivid scenes that immerse readers in the story and you have a book that will keep you consistently entertained and guessing; I was constantly wondering if Jon was going to be able to win, or at least what the cost would be?

The Swords of Blood and Gold is an enthralling novel with an entertaining mix of action and romance. If you’re a fan of paranormal thrillers with a deep sense of adventure than you will certainly want to embark on this deep-sea expedition.

Pages: 308 | ASIN : B09YN3SJ9V

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Almagest (A Perfect Order Series Book 2)

Almagest is the second book of the A Perfect Order series by Drew Kientz, and it surely won’t disappoint!

Juniper Minerva Appleblossom is living her dream life: touring with her band and stuck with her drug addiction, she doesn’t seem to want anything else. But amidst her new rock n’ roll lifestyle, friends of the past find her for another dangerous upcoming mission: the Almagest must be retrieved, a mysterious artifact from an old Enlightened civilization. As a Primeval, Juniper can make a difference with her powerful Enlightened abilities, but she’ll have to battle with her own demons as she tries to make sense of herself, what she wants and her purpose in life.

The world that Drew Kientz has built is so rich and dynamic that it’s impossible not to be immersed in it right away. Reading this book can be an escape into a world similar to ours but with magic and fantastical additions that can feel dangerous yet thrilling. It was hard to put the book down, it’s not only the world and the plot that’s riveting, the characters are also so unique and endearing that it’s easy to feel attached to them from the start. We get to explore a new mission with characters that we met in the first book, following them as they show new aspects of themselves and their interactions with one another grow and become more meaningful.

As we advance in the story, this group of Enlightened that Juniper joins for a new mission slowly starts to feel like a family. The relationships between them feels real and has depth. The story has lots of wondrous elements in it, the action and intrigue always present. Drew Kientz’s style of writing helps in creating a story that’s gripping and one can feel very close to very fast. Each chapter revealed a new aspect of the plot, mysteries unfolding every step of the way. The entire story is an adventure worth following, the enjoyment and excitement is definitely a characteristic part of this book!

Masterfully written, this book will become the favorite of many out there, fantastically blending magic, the supernatural and the modern world into a single captivating storyline. The A Perfect Order series has shown growth and is certainly a promising series. And since you’ll want more of this imaginative secret world and its characters once you finish reading the story, Kientz gives us a short excerpt at the end from the third book, allowing us a peek into the next installment of this series.

Pages: 402 | ASIN: B09J55MVCB

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An Ontological Thriller

James Shelley Author Interview

The Deep Translucent Pond follows two students that go on an extremely emotional journey led by their mentor, The Black Magus. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

In literature, emotional journeys are usually between two people in a relationship. I felt that journey could be made even more powerful if taken on by three people—in effect, three people locking arms and trying to get to a higher place together rather than just two. So how do you create a setting to make that happen? The weekly meetings of the poetry fellowship unexpectedly provide that catalyst, the Black Magus, shaman-like, entwining the cords of the physical with the meta-physical to create a dynamic that continually expands into spaces that were not there before, taking the three characters with it.

The Black Magus is characterized as philosophic. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

At one point an old friend of the Black Magus’s characterizes him as a cross between Jean Paul Sartre and Jim Morrison. Such a crossing of a “disciplined philosophic approach” with “unpredictable ecstatic leaping” is going to create a huge flexibility in terms of where that character can go, what he can say. Add some history of mental illness and a kind of religious intensity and you have a character who—if he can hold it together—will burn at a very high temperature. Although it can’t last for too long. In the case of the novel, the Black Magus makes it last for the ten intensively transformative weeks of the fellowship.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Most novels struggle between surface action—plot essentially—which is fast moving and lurid and keeps you reading, and the probing for deeper meanings through character development or insights into the human condition. That second part is almost always secondary, because the book has to sell. I felt there was a way to focus primarily on the latter, the deeper parts, while at the same time giving those parts a “surface action” which will keep reader’s avidly turning the page. An ontological thriller, if you will, with a transcendent climax even more resonant than if a horrible crime was solved.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will be available?

Since The Deep Translucent Pond focuses on a poetry fellowship with the three characters transformed by that fellowship, the novel includes poetry produced by the three characters, used to drill deeper and faster into their interior lives. In a surprising way, the three characters in the novel—Jerome, Natalija, and The Black Magus—have continued writing poetry beyond the book. Their book of new poems is my intended next book.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

In The Deep Translucent Pond, a 40 year old attorney, Jerome Konigsberg, and 30 year old nurse, Natalija Gasper, are winners of poetry fellowships which allow them rare access to a once famous, now reclusive poet with the nom de plume, The Black Magus. At their first meeting the Black Magus “hijacks” the fellowship, proclaiming it the final piece of a secretive ten-year project known as the Triangulum, its goal: The re-enchantment of the world.
The key to re-enchantment is The Deep Translucent Pond which the Black Magus has identified as “a hideout of the fugitive gods.” If he can reach into it—as placid as a reactor cooling pool—and retrieve a mysterious object from the bottom, re-enchantment will be ignited. He elaborately recruits his two fellowship “students” to help. For their part, they accommodate his severe eccentricities in exchange for flashes of insight into their lives and a feeling that he is guiding them to a higher place.

James Shelley has spent his professional life shifting between the underworld and higher places. He’s been a psychiatric attendant, land surveyor, arts critic, mental health case worker, archivist for the Rockefellers, and a bagpiper playing at the funerals of men and women he’s never met. As an educator, his innovative work at an Ohio college supporting at-risk male students has attracted national interest.
As a writer, Shelley started out writing plays for experimental theatre before shifting to fiction, early efforts earning him an Ohio Arts Prize. In his published poetry and fiction, he has always been fascinated with how prosaic moments can unexpectedly transcend, expanding into spaces that were not there before.

A Childhood Paracosm

Author Interview
Roske Author Interview

Strung follows a woman in a forced engagement as she discovers the world of the Faye, and becomes enraptured with the world she finds. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The world and story of Strung began as a childhood paracosm and continued to evolve over the following decades. After so long, it’s difficult for me to pinpoint each original source of inspiration, but I do specifically recall an early fascination with the romantic power imbalance in Disney’s Aladdin. These days, Jasmine’s trope might be classified as a very light “Alpha Female”, but it was a totally new concept for me at the time. I believe that idea seeded the initial daydream, but many, many other influences found their way into the narrative over time, too.

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?

In a sense, yes to both. The characters grew as I did, so there was indeed an outline before I sat down to write—just not a typical one! I ended up cutting several plot points and character interactions in order to keep the book below 140k words, but the ultimate path of each character’s development remained the same.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The story’s themes include each definition and colloquial use of the word “strung”. For instance: interpersonal tethering, adherence to tradition, tightly wound anxiety, emotional resonance, threads of fate, and for better or worse, how each of these forms has the power to control our actions by stringing us as puppets or instruments.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

To be honest, Strung is the only story I absolutely needed to tell. If there was demand for a sequel, I’d consider one. Otherwise, who knows? Maybe I’ll have a new world to jot down in another 25 years.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Based on a decades-long paracosm, Strung weaves complex patterns from themes of control, adherence, and fate. The result delivers social commentary through a musical lens, reimagined folklore, and two richly-detailed fantasy cultures. A must-read for fans of dreamy, literary fiction!
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