In the science fiction genre, many stories share similar plots. The authors, Grant Elliot Smith and Steven H. Stohler, in their co-venture, Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest, expertly utilize concepts from great sci-fi classics. With this they create a very entertaining story that keeps readers rooting for the protagonist, Rathen, and his crew throughout their quest to vanquish evil from their world and other worlds in the galaxy.
The story begins roughly a year after the first book left off in a dark scene where Rathen and his companions—Bandark and Rulo—nervously approach a terrible foe that is capable of destroying the group with his magical ability that allows him control of many elements and also the dead. The result of this meeting then forms a core group that joins in a quest in search of a powerful book called The Book of Ziz that will allow its wielders to vanquish a terrorizing deity known as Gothoar. The story has much more depth as the characters face personal issues and other forms of conflict as the story unfolds.
One concept that makes this book a great read is the discussion of social dynamics through the interaction of fictional races. The group contains several humans, a lich, a half-orc, and people from other worlds in their fold. Therefore, the authors found a way to talk about and resolve racial conflicts. The details of the story show that some people have to live in certain neighborhoods and have to be defensive regarding their heritage. Thack, a capable warrior who is half human and orc, has apparently had a history of racial persecution because he chose to live in an area away from his home where he has found acceptance, but with the introduction of a love interest, feels defensive about his mixed heritage to seek acceptance.
Other social issues like gender disparity are discussed. Caswen—a healer—and her sister Drynwen—a protector—feel gender bias in their organization and have to fight harder to receive missions than their male counterparts. This book seeks to show that the bias others hold can often overshadow dreams and skills. The sisters get their opportunity to sharpen their skills on the road. They find their niche amongst the team allowing them to shine brighter than many of their order back home.
Rathen is able to shed new light on old tropes. Most everyone is familiar with the hero and company on a quest to save the world from destructive foe. The story adds plenty of depth through the implementation of human nature with nonhuman characters and the exploration of human tendencies like the search for redemption, acceptance, contentment, immortality, and even revenge in some cases. Smith and Stohler did a fantastic job telling a story that goes much deeper than the words on the pages; their work sticks with their readers well after the words are read.
Pages: 282 | ASIN: B07HWNK13Z
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The Dead Wake Anthology is a collection of horrifically good stories centered around the idea of zombification. Did you write these stories with the intention of building an anthology or did you write them separately over time?
I wrote with intention of building a short story collection of different ways zombies can cause havoc.
My favorite story from the collection is No More Coochy Coochy Coo! Do you have a favorite story from the collection?
I rather liked Gunslinger and have had a lot of readers wanting it to be made into a novel so I’m doing just 🙂
I really enjoyed the character development in your stories. Each character seemed unique and multilayered. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your characters?
I wanted all of my characters to be as real as someone sitting next to you, so no actual themes as such for them, more along the lines of ‘realism’ given they were short stories, that needed to be focused on a lot more.
Are you currently working on volume 2 or are you working on a different story?
Yes, I’ve written and published a volume 2 and it is up for pre-order, released date ‘Halloween’ this one is without zombies. It is my first short story collection of pure horror without a single zombie. I’m sure you’d love it. The title is Death O Death Horror Collection Vol 2 the one I had you review has had a slight name change, it is now titled: The Dead Wake Horror Collection Vol 1. A link to the second volume: https://amzn.to/2SAI7ra.
The Dead Wake Anthology by Ellie Douglas is a collection of thrilling short stories. The anthology investigates the idea of zombification threw a number of avenues, exploring what the impacts of an outbreak would be in a variety of scenarios. The anthology sits well within the horror and thriller genres and makes for an exciting though horrifying read. Ellie Douglas often investigates how the transition from living to dead, to living-dead would progress in the various instances of infection meaning that each story is unique in the ways in which this topic is explored.
Posted in Interviews
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Skeins follows a group of Indian woman as they travel through Europe learning something about life, each other, and themselves. What served as your inspiration for this uplifting novel?
Both my novels relate to a world well-known to me: urban educated India. I have been travelling a great deal for the past 14 years and I undertake at least one group tour overseas each year. Though the itinerary for the tour described in Skeins is similar to that of a group tour I undertook with Cosmos© in 2015, the similarity ends there as the tourists in the latter included men and women of varied nationalities. Also, when I had traveled to Ireland in 2016, my suitcase had not been transferred in time to the connecting flight by the airline staff at Munich airport during transit. These experiences sparked off my imagination, which led to the birth of Skeins.
There is a great collection of women from several generations in this group. Who was your favorite character to write for?
It’s like asking someone who is your favourite child. Each woman character is alive in my imagination with her own distinct personality, dreams and circumstances. They are all resilient as I don’t sympathize with whiners. I like women who get back on their feet after a hard tumble and find their own path in life without seeking sympathy or support. However, I particularly empathized with the characters Sandra D’Souza and Vidya Rao who are caught in a conundrum and need to make tough decisions.
I enjoyed how the characters each had their own story that contributed to the depth of their character. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this book?
Though the novel is a breezy read, it deals with serious societal issues related to women. I feel very strongly about the thwarting of women’s emotional, professional and intellectual independence and expression by a patriarchal society and a dominant partner who limit her role to that of a mother and a comfort provider. The novel also depicts the generic issues of social hierarchy, aspirational lifestyles, the violence within and without our homes, loneliness and dementia.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have a few ideas that I am exploring. When that creative spark is ignited, I know I will not take longer than two months to pen the story and edit it.
With a galaxy of identifiable characters from modern urban India depicted with light-hearted mirth in a travel environment, the novel explores serious issues, such as the quest for an independent identity and economic independence, the violence within and outside our homes, the loneliness of old age and the need for constructive channelization of youthful energy. Spanning events across a little more than a year, Skeins depicts how self-expression and a supportive environment trigger a cataclysmic effect and stimulate the women to realize their dreams.
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He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement.
Posted in book trailer
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Damnation is a thrilling dark fantasy novel that follows King Lortar as he finds himself surrounded by enemies. What was the inspiration for the setup to this novel?
Loosely, the Warring States period of ancient China.
Asuf was an intriguing character that I enjoyed following. Your book is filled with interesting characters, who was your favorite character to write for?
Princess Alerise. She has an interesting psychology and fun dialogue. Plus I have a thing for tomgirls, villainesses, and blondes, and Alerise just so happens to tick all those boxes.
The characters inhabit a world with a rich backstory. How did you create the backstory for this world and what were some themes you wanted to capture?
From the ground up. First the geography, then the ecology, then the peoples and their cultures, then their histories.
As for themes, I wanted to show a harsh people bred by a cruel and uncaring world—but more importantly, I wanted to show how kindness, however small, can exist even in a world that punishes the kind.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The sequel to this book will most likely be available sometime in 2021.
An Empire fallen. A kingdom beset. A family divided. When King Lortar discovers a savage cult performing heathen rites, he’s forced to battle a foe he never imagined: his own son. Surrounded by enemies, Lortar is trapped in a world of treachery and betrayal, where mercy is vice and malice is glory.
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This is book two in The Seers Series. What were some themes you wanted to carry over from book one and what were some new ideas you wanted to introduce?
Some themes I wanted to carry over from the first book are:
-The classic good versus evil
-Acceptance of those who may be different from us
-By joining together, individual differences can make a stronger whole
Some new ideas I wanted to introduce are:
-Learn from the mistakes of the past, but don’t let them keep you from moving forward
-Love and life are possible again after loss
-Stand up for what you believe is right
There were many great, and well developed, characters in this book. Was there anything from your own life that you put into your characters?
I think every author puts things from their own lives into their characters. Sometimes, we put different aspects of ourselves into the characters, sometimes there are traits we see in others that we put into the characters. I did both things.
In order to write good, well developed characters, you need to be able to understand human behavior at least to some degree. Writers must be aware of our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of those around us. We need to be understand how emotions and physical sensations translate to body language and facial expressions. And the best way to learn human behavior is to observe those around you, and to take a good, honest look at yourself as well.
Where will book three in The Seers Series take readers and when will it be available?
Book three in the Seers Series will take readers on a trip through the Sacred Forest, where they will visit an elven village and a bear shifter clan. Then they will go to Fair Harbor, a fishing village on the west coast of Sterrenvar, and finally to Westgate.
Plot-wise, the readers will learn more about the seers and some other of the magical races in the realm. They will learn more about the evil sorcerer, including some insights into his plans and motivations. They will get more clues about who he is and what started him down his dark path.
As of right now, I plan to publish the third book in the series in the spring of 2019, barring any unforeseen complications.
Posted in Interviews
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It’s 1895. Beautiful Dr. Anna St. James has won the battle to earn the M.D. after her name when her father dies, suddenly throwing her into great debt. After moving to a shabby boarding house on the Lower East Side of New York, Anna receives a marriage proposal that would cancel her father’s debt but would chain her to a man she neither loves nor trusts.
Desperate to escape, she applies for a position at a TB clinic in Asheville, North Carolina, close to the home of her friend, Daphne Vanderbilt, who invites her to spend Christmas celebrations at Biltmore Estate. On her journey Anna meets the handsome Dr. Richard Wellington. She is captivated by the dashing British physician, but she soon becomes convinced that he is like every other male physician at a time when the American Medical Association does not admit female doctors into its membership. Can they put aside their differences and allow their love to flourish?
Published in connection with Hartline Literary Agency, serving the Christian book community. Visit us at hartlineagency.com.
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The Emerald Cave by James B. McPike is a fast novel. It’s not fast in the sense that it’s a short read. Rather, The Emerald Cave works by having prose and plotting that takes readers for a whirlwind of a story that involves action, firefights, terrorists, heists, and a dozen other elements that contribute to an engaging and incredibly engrossing novel. Being the third in its series, The Emerald Cave follows the story of Vince Ramsey, an Israeli detective searching for an arms dealer whose whereabouts are murky at best. He enlists the help of April Fulton, an expert on historical artifacts, and the two set off on an epic investigative chase that brings them from one part of the world to the another, with obstacles and betrayal meeting them each step of the way. The book is fast, and it starts off with a tense standoff initiated by terrorists of the Hezbollah organization. From there, the plot takes no chances, pushing onward with a feverish speed that helps heighten the book’s sense of urgency and impact. This is juxtaposed by appropriately placed moments of quiet that allows both the characters and the readers to ponder on events as they unfurl.
Beyond these points, The Emerald Cave shines in its effective usage of characterization. The relationship between April Fulton and Vince Ramsey highlight a realistic dynamic that allows the two to play off one another. Sequences in which the two work together in solving a puzzle or identifying various clues reveal key differences in the characters’ logical approaches and methodologies that help make each character feel individual. In certain moments, I found myself working out these puzzles with April and Vince, identifying my own thought processes and “aha!” moments in conjunction with their own. At the same time, there is a clear sense of growth these two protagonists go through as the novel moves forward and while some trends are easy to note, this sense of maturity one finds is rare in many stories today. This characterization is aided by James B. McPike’s effective prose. Sentences are generally terse and filled with the details necessary for the story. Long, drawn-out sections are rare to find and each word McPike utilizes is one that is necessary for the story being conveyed. This helps create a tense atmosphere that works incredibly well with the fast plotting designed by McPike.
As a whole, The Emerald Cave by James B. McPike is an incredible story that doesn’t let up. Events fly at neck-breaking speeds while readers becoming connected with the protagonists as everyone tries to uncover the mysteries and secrets the story presents. While the story could have used some additional quiet moments in order to allow the reader to collect themselves before continuing onward, The Emerald Cove remains an engrossing piece. The stories narrative design and effective characterization makes this story an incredible journey and an enjoyable ride.
Pages: 215 | ASIN: B07DSRKWR1
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It’s fascinating and scary thinking that the center of our bodies can contemplate its own demise. Our brains can study, research, and fear ailments like cancer and Alzheimer’s. And finding a healthy combination of these reactions might be our best chance at avoiding these terrible conditions. Dr. Shantha Kumar’s Functional Nutrients for Brain Health: A Vegetarian Perspective seeks to help readers find that balance.
Dr. Kumar undertakes a noble, yet challenging, task: helping the mind keep pace with a body that continues to live longer and longer. To do this, she applies her knowledge and experience to a full body type of medicine. In other words, the book’s advice goes beyond nutrition and includes commentary on exercise, sleep, and stress. In our current hashtag nutrition culture, where foods are elevated to savior status with little to no explanation, Dr. Kumar’s words become particularly refreshing. Take this passage for instance, “Olive oil is an Omega-9 monounsaturated fat which is a healthy option for the brain, although it is more cholesterol genetic (increasing blood cholesterol) than other unsaturated fats” (12). Rather than just uplift olive oil as a cure-all superfood, she takes the time to explain how some substances that increase brain health can simultaneously put other parts of the body under duress.
Additionally, the book provides a wealth of nutritional information that though aimed at vegetarians can apply to anyone. I particularly liked the section on fruits – which she lists hierarchically to indicate that not all fruits contribute to the same level of brain health. Just as useful was what food to avoid. I’ve heard a lot about why I shouldn’t eat artificial sweeteners or food coloring, but only now do I know it’s because they “increase free radical formation” and can “trigger generalized allergic reactions” (24).
Unfortunately, this fantastic information is buried in technical jargon. It’s not unusual to come across passages like, “the major apolipoprotein constituent of HDL-like particles in the CNS is ApoE which transports cholesterol and other lipids made by astrocytes and microglial cells to neurons” (14). Passages like the one above, as well as charts that occasionally stretch on for multiple pages, can discourage the average reader. In fact, one might think the book is intended for a professional audience were it not for the lack of sources backing up the information. Dr. Kumar is upfront about this approach. But this combination of medical terms and missing sources leaves the book in a weird middle ground: too complicated for average readers; too simple for medical experts.
Yet, discouraged readers should commit to reaching chapter four’s “Menu Planning Criteria and Strategies.” Here Dr. Kumar breaks away from the medical jargon and dives into specific dos and don’ts of brain health. This chapter transitions into recipes – which again prove more useful than the early sections of the book: even this meat loving reviewer admits that the bean salsa sounds delicious. People motivated to improve their brain health can trust they’ve found a worthwhile guide.
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Madeline Clark’s life seems like the life of a dozen different individuals. From the beginning of her troubled life, she is met head-on with one horrific circumstance after another at the hands of people she hopes and prays will be her saving graces. After finding her way out of South Africa, Maddie finds fleeting hope with David Blakely, a man she has no choice but to trust to pull her from poverty and imminent death, but cannot possibly know that his attention will be the beginning of her end and the catalyst for a lifetime of heartache and repeated loss and grief.
Maddie’s life, laid out for readers by Lucia Mann in her book, Addicted to Hate, is one of the most tragic about which I have ever read. It’s difficult to know where to begin explaining the layers Mann has revealed with her vivid and gripping descriptions of Maddie’s harrowing childhood, her abusive marriage to a vile man, and the horrific road she travels as a mother to three girls who could not care less if she lived or died. It is almost beyond comprehensible that Maddie could survive the mental and physical challenges with which she is faced from the beginning to the bitter end of her amazing and tortured life.
Mann has taken this story, based on actual events, and set Maddie forth as an unlikely heroine who overcomes insurmountable odds as she talks herself through each of her hardships including three pregnancies that, by all accounts, were miracles and curses at the same time. Maddie is the poster child of life testing us. She seems to have received each and every trial imaginable, the most tragic of which is the complete abhorrence her daughters have for her. I found myself rooting, paragraph by paragraph, for a turn of events for Maddie. I felt a visceral reaction with each mention of her daughter Mara’s blatant and evil brutalization of her mother. I wanted desperately for Maddie to see the light and make a break from her toxic children, but Maddie is better than most; she may be better than all of us.
Maddie’s intellect is her own saving grace. Her abilities are put to use in the most fascinating ways, and even that amazing opportunity cannot completely pull her from her spiral. Mann is a master at having her readers draw hopeful conclusions before letting them down abruptly.
The overall subject matter of Mann’s work is enhanced by the tone in which she writes. While maintaining a third person point of view, she manages nicely to incorporate a hint of second person questioning while drawing the reader further into Maddie’s overpowering drama.
Mann has given audience to an amazing tale of endurance and determination. In addition to the heartbreaking events of Maddie’s life, Mann shows readers the embodiment of true and unwavering unconditional love. Nowhere else can readers find a more poignant tale of loss, betrayal, and incredible triumph.
Pages: 254 | ASIN: B07K4TXQC7
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