Tuesday, June 28, 2011

(Book Blog Tour) Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston (Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Action & Adventure, Romance
Publication.Date  July 14th 2011
Published By:  Penguin Canada
WebsiteLesley Livingston Blog
Once Every Never - Goodreads
My review copy:ARC provided by the publisher (*Thank you!*)
Where to get: Chapters | Amazon

     Clarinet Reid is a pretty typical teenager. On the surface. She’s smart, but a bit of slacker; outgoing, but just a little insecure; not exactly a mischief-maker… but trouble tends to find her wherever she goes. Also? She unwittingly carries a centuries-old Druid Blood Curse running through her veins.

Now, with a single thoughtless act, what started off as the Summer Vacation in Dullsville suddenly spirals into a deadly race to find a stolen artifact, avert an explosive catastrophe, save a Celtic warrior princess, right a dreadful wrong that happened centuries before Clare was even born, and if there’s still time—literally—maybe even get a date.

This is the kind of adventure that happens to a girl once every… never.

“You actually want to spend precious minutes of our last summer vacation before final year hanging out with dead dudes.”
“Don’t knock it. Vampires and zombies are very hot right now.”
“First of all, vampires are undead. And zombies are … ew.”
“So that leaves bog guys.”

“I think Milo’s kinda cool.”
“You think Math-a-lympics are cool. You are an unreliable source.”

     Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston is a fantastic, engaging and highly entertaining Young Adult novel for those who like adventure. Lesley’s smooth writing style is irresistible and incredibly impressive, I absolutely loved it.

     Clare (or Clarinet if you prefer) is pretty much your typical teenager girl, with a dose of sass. She’s a good student, although you wouldn’t call her a nerd. She might not be the most popular girl in town, but that’s perfectly alright with her, because she gets all the attention and support she needs from her best friend, Allie. While her orchestra-musician parents are on a world tour with the Symphonia Intenationale, Clare is spending her summer vacations in England, under the watchful eye of her aunt, Maggie. Maggie – Dr. Magda Wallace – is a well known and highly respected professor of archeology, who works at the British Museum. You know what that means? Yup, Clare will be spending most of her time exploring the museum’s exhibitions. Not a very exciting prospect for Clarinet, but thankfully her best friend, Allie, is there to keep her company. And let’s not forget about the super handsome and unbelievably smart Milo, Allie’s cousin.

     What promised to be an utterly boring and dull summer, all of a sudden turns into a breathtaking time travel adventure when Clare touches one of the artifacts in the museum and is magically transported to AD 60, the times of Queen Boudicca. As it turns out, Clare has the ability to travel in time and it’s all due to an ancient blood curse. Now Clare has to figure out how to control her ability and find a long lost artifact, and she has to do all that without altering the time-space continuum and causing irreversible changes to the present. With an uber hot young warrior distracting her, this might prove to be even harder that she thinks.

     I had a lot of fun devouring this book. Fast-paced and entertaining, it was an excellent mix of mythology, history, paranormal, adventure and romance. All that spiced up with sharp, hilarious and witty dialogues.

     What I liked the most about this novel was Lesley Livingston’s fantastic writing style. She tells the story in such a smooth and fun way that it’s really impossible to put the book down once you start reading. It’s definitely a great page-turner. Most importantly, the dialogues are not forced or overdone, they are realistic, humorous and very entertaining, I was constantly cracking up. What can I say? I really think Lesley is a brilliant storyteller!

     It wasn’t only the constant question if Clare can actually do something to change the past and if/how it will affect the present that kept me turning the pages, it was Clare, too. As well as Milo and Connal. I wanted to know more about them. I was dying to find out how the whole time-travel-love-triangle will play out and who’s going to win Clare’s heart in the end. Clarinet is a very likable protagonist and, together with Milo, Connal, Allie and Aunt Maggie, she really made this story.

     The historical background provided by the author was skillfully incorporated into the plot in a way that didn’t come across as boring or too informative. What we get here is a perfect dose of history, mythology and even some powerful Druid magic.

     The ending, while it ties up things nicely, still left me with an impression that there was something lacking in the story. The way the love-triangle played out was a tiny bit unsatisfying to me and I found myself wishing for more emotional depth and some heart breaking drama. That would be my only complaint and the reason for rating this book 4/5 instead of 5/5. Overall, I had a fantastic time with this novel and I hope that Lesley Livingston will decide to write more books featuring Clare, Allie and Milo! I’d love to meet them again!

A Taste of History 

Boudicca was queen of the Iceni people of Eastern England and led a major uprising against occupying Roman forces. 
Boudicca was married to Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni people of East Anglia. When the Romans conquered southern England in AD 43, they allowed Prasutagus to continue to rule. However, when Prasutagus died the Romans decided to rule the Iceni directly and confiscated the property of the leading tribesmen. They are also said to have stripped and flogged Boudicca and raped her daughters. These actions exacerbated widespread resentment at Roman rule.

In 60 or 61 AD, while the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus was leading a campaign in North Wales, the Iceni rebelled. Members of other tribes joined them.

Boudicca's warriors successfully defeated the Roman Ninth Legion and destroyed the capital of Roman Britain, then at Colchester. They went on to destroy London and Verulamium (St Albans). Thousands were killed. Finally, Boudicca was defeated by a Roman army led by Paulinus. Many Britons were killed and Boudicca is thought to have poisoned herself to avoid capture. The site of the battle, and of Boudicca's death, are unknown.

Blog Tour Stops 
(make sure to visit them all!)
Giveaway Announcement! 

I will be giving away a finished copy of "Once Every Never" The giveaway will be posted together with my interview with Lesley at the end of this week. Make sure to check back! It will be open to Internationals!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

(Book Blog Tour) Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon (ARC review + Giveaway)

Genre:Young Adult, Action & Adventure, Fairytale
Publication.Date  November 8th 2011
Published By:  Bonneville Books (Cedar Fort)
WebsiteCinder and Ella
Cinder and Ella - Goodreads
My review copy:netGalley
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon

     After their father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself—the most dangerous place in all the kingdom for both her and Cinder. Cinder and Ella is a Cinderella story like no other and one you'll never forget.

Please note:  Quotes are from an ARC and will be verified against a published copy.

Tanner: "I think that I might kiss you to keep your lips busy from something other than insulting me."
Ella: "If you think you can do it without getting lost."

"Shut-up, you fool! I will not listen to your snide remarks any longer. I will stop crying as soon as you can learn to keep your mouth shut for more than a few seconds at a time."

     Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon was a big surprise! When I started reading this book I expected yet another re-telling of the classic fairytale. You know the one with evil stepmother and stepsisters, handsome prince-charming, glass slippers, pumpkin turning into a beautiful coach, ball at the palace and a girl trying to escape the life of abuse and servitude.  This book, however, was nothing like the original story. As a matter of fact, it was so different from the classic Cinderella fairytale that if not for the title, I never would have connected these two stories.  

     Let’s talk about the plot, shall we?

     Cinder and Ella, together with their parents and two sisters, lived in a small cottage on the side of a steep mountain.  For a time, the family lived a happy and peaceful life. They all loved and respected each other. The sisters grew in joy and their days were filled with happiness. Their lives were absolutely perfect, and they never foresaw the dark days ahead of them.  

     One night Prince Monticello came knocking on their door. He didn’t come in search of a bride. Nor did he want to invite the ladies to a ball. What he wanted was to gain supporters of his treasonous intentions. He spoke of the injustice and lunacy of the king. Most of his words, though, were pure deception. Unfortunately, both Weston and Adela of Willow Top were trusting people. They believed in the prince’s good intentions and they fell for his lies. 

     After the prince’s visit the family of Willow Top started to fall apart. The father, bewitched by a dark, invisible spell, eventually started to lose his mind. The prince’s words poisoned his thoughts and he became bitter and gloom. He started to neglect both his blacksmith business and his family, until one day he disappeared without a trace. 

     The sisters started to mistreat each other and often fought over silly things. Devastated by the disappearance of her husband, the mother was no longer capable of taking care of her daughters. She became disconnected from the reality and spent her days at the spinning wheel.  

     Cinder, the kindest of all daughters, ends up having to care for her whole family. Treated more like a servant than a family member, she now has to look after her sisters, Katrina and Beatrice.  Just like Cinderella in the original fairytale, Cinder is in charge of all the chores in and around the house, working from early mornings to late evenings.  

     The tough family situation is not everything she will have to deal with, though.  Both Cinder and her sister, Ella, will have to face a huge danger. The evil prince is out there to get them, and he is charming and deceitful. Will the sisters be able to recognize the danger in time? Or will the evil triumph this time? 

     I really enjoyed reading this novel. The writing is simplistic, yet very captivating. The book is slightly more than 200 pages, which makes it a quick read. The plot is fast moving and you don’t really get those slower moments, when you feel like you can cast the book aside for a while. It’s the kind of book you can easily devour in one sitting. I found myself really engrossed in the storyline and wanting to find out what will happen next and how the whole thing will end. 

     My only complaint about this book would be the nonsensical or absent motives for many characters’ actions. The prince is evil, dark and devious, but we never really learn what caused him to be like that. I mean, he comes from a good, loving family. The king and queen seem to be perfectly reasonable people who care for their son. There was no wicked witch to cast a spell on him and he didn’t fall on his head when he was a child. There just doesn’t seem to be any logical explanation for his evilness.  Same goes for the father and the king and queen.  I just didn’t understand the motives behind their decisions. I do, however, believe that this is just how the traditional folktales are and that’s the beauty of the genre. It’s meant to be simple. And you’re not supposed to question the motives. We’re talking about a story, which is written in a way that preserves the tone of a classic old fairy tale. The guy is evil because he likes it this way. Period. 

      I highly recommend this book for a beach read. It might be slightly darker than the original, but it’s not heavy or depressing at all. If you’re looking for a quick read to pass the time, Cinder and Ella may just be the novel for you.

Here's the complete tour schedule, some blogs -- like Bookish -- are hosting giveaways, so make sure to visit them all! :) Happy hopping! 

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday

1 2 3 4

I Like These Books   ReaWrite I Am A Reader, Not A Writer Reflections of a Neurotic Writer  

5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Reflections With Coffee   The Victorian Vanity
Lost for Words
Librarians Life in Books   Dr. Stravagante’s Traveling Book Circus   Not on Shelf
Bending the Spine
  Reading Through Life
Burning Impossibly Bright
I know good books
  Awesome Bookworm
The Fiction Fairy
Living, Laughing, Loving, Reading   Fire and Ice Holes in my brain  Burning Impossibly Bright
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
  A Backward Story   iLive, iLaugh, iLove books
It’s all about books
  Books and Things  
The Great YA Escape
Jessica’s Bookshelf  Reading Vacation
Bookworm 1858
A Casual Reader’s Blog  It’s all about books Makobi Scribe
  Splash of our Worlds
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Supernatural Snark My Disorganized Ramblings   Sonette’s Bookworm Blog
Eclectic Eccentric
Lovez 2 Read   Reading in the Corner
Literature Young Adult Fiction
Book Loving Mommy  Reading Angel  Keepin’ Up with LDS bookstores Rex Robot Reviews   Bookworm Nation My Love Affair with Books   Darcy’s Review
Witchy Book Reviews
26 27 28 29 30

Book Twirps   Evie-Bookish
  Manga Maniac Cafe
Lost for Words
Wakela’s World   ReaderGirls Books R Us  Kawzmik World
Stiletto Storytime
Curled Up With Books   Books R Us
A room without books is empty
Confessions of a YA writer

Giveaway Time! 

Open to US & Canada (sorry Internationals!)
Ends: Sunday, July 10th 

*Mandatory entry: be a GFC follower of my blog and fill out the form below
*Extra entries: 
+1 Follow me on Twitter @SeoEvie
+5 Follow Melissa on Twitter @Melissa_Lemon
+5 Follow Melissa's Blog HERE
+5 Be Melissa's Fan on Goodreads HERE
+5 Follow Cedar Fort Books on Twitter @cedarfortbooks
+5 Leave a comment on this post

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

(Book Blog Tour) The Witch of Babylon by D.J. McIntosh (Review+Interview+Giveaway)

Genre:Adult, Mystery, Adventure
Publication.Date  June 7th 2011
Published By:  Penguin Canada
WebsiteThe Mesopotamian Trilogy
The Witch of Babylon - Goodreads
My review copy:ARC provided by the publisher *Thank you!!*
Where to get: Penguin Canada | Amazon | Chapters

     The Witch of Babylon features John Madison, a New York art dealer caught up in the aftermath of the looting of the Baghdad Museum. It includes an elaborate puzzle that must be solved in order to locate a missing biblical antiquity and a spectacular lost treasure, as well as alchemy, murder, and the Mesopotamian cult of Istar. Alternating between war-torn Baghdad and New York, with forays into ancient Mesopotamian culture, The Witch of Babylon takes readers deep inside the world of Assyriology and its little-known but profound significance for the modern world.

     The Witch of Babylon by D.J. McIntosh is an exhaustively researched page-turner about ancient myths, precious artifacts, alchemy and hidden treasures. The originality of the plot, amazingly accurate research, and ability to catch the reader's interest from the get-go and hold it until the last word in the last sentence of the last page, make D.J McIntosh an exceptional author. I’m truly grateful for the chance to read and review her book!

     John Madison is a 32-year-old Turkish-American art dealer from New York. He lost his parents in a mining accident at the age of 3 and was raised by his much older brother, Samuel, who helped John get started in the art business. When we meet Madison for the first time he is recovering from a car accident in which he lost his brother.  Before his tragic death, Samuel made a sensational discovery.  During his stay in Iraq he found an ancient artifact of great significance. This stone tablet is one of the greatest finds in all of Iraqi history. Protecting it became an obsession for Samuel. To save it from looters he smuggled it out of Iraq into the US.  After Samuel’s death the artifact was stolen by his childhood friend, Hall Vanderlin. Before Hall managed to sell it, he was murdered. Now, John Madison finds himself caught in a deadly game staged by Hall. To save his life, he must solve the puzzle and find the tablet. With members of Alchemy Archives, a deadly secret society, pursuing him, John Madison is about to set out on a dangerous, yet fascinating journey through time and space. 

     The Witch of Babylon is a great book for a number of reasons. It’s a very engaging and entertaining yet essentially light read. It’s also filled with fascinating bits of information about the history of Iraq and a myriad of other related topics including art, Mesopotamian mythology and religious symbols and ideas. 

     D.J. McIntosh mastered the art of suspense and action thriller. Thanks to her extensive and impressive knowledge, this action-packed story has a fabulous historical and mythological background. What I liked the most, though, was the way McIntosh managed to skillfully intertwine all the myths and historical facts into the plot, creating a perfectly balanced novel. Thanks to her smooth writing style the information we were given throughout the novel did not come across as boring or overwhelming. 

     In the end, The Witch of Babylon became an obsession, a book I couldn’t put down because it intrigued me so. It is a brain teaser, a book that engages the mind in a quest to figure out the codes and solve the puzzles before the characters do. It fueled my curiosity to know more about both the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia and the modern-day Iraq. I found myself absolutely engrossed in the plot, after all, who doesn’t like solid mystery novels involving a treasure hunt? I admit, in the beginning I wasn’t very fond of the main protagonist, but overtime, as I learned more about him and his past, he kind of grew on me and I now can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the Mesopotamian Trilogy.

     The bottom-line is, anyone with an interest in ancient history and mythology will enjoy this book. It’s a fantastic mystery novel comparable to Dan Brown’s bestsellers. Go get yourself a copy, you won’t regret it!

And now, my beloved readers, it's time for an interview with the fabulous writer! Please give a warm welcome to D.J. McIntosh!

E: Evie
D.J: D.J. McIntosh

E: Welcome to Bookish D.J! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
DJ: Thank you so much for inviting me to be your guest. I guess I could say I’m a Toronto grandmother
who didn’t listen to good advice. Most writers are warned not to quit their day job but I left my profession as a city planner to start a new writing career when I was in my fifties. I spend summers at my cottage on the Bruce peninsula, winters in Toronto and head for New York City any chance I can get.
E: Who or what inspired you to write The Witch of Babylon?
DJ: “The Witch” as we like to call her, was born out of the juxtaposition of my research on ancient Mesopotamia and the advent of the Iraq war in 2003. Reading about the destruction of legendary cities like Ur and Nineveh and seeing the same looting and pillaging being played out on TV screens. It was as if nothing had changed in 4000 years of human history.
E: Do you mind telling us how long did it take for you to write your book?
DJ: Six years
E: Mythology plays an important role in the story. Is it one of your passions or did you have to spend much time in research?
DJ: I’d say both. I like to write about myths and famous tales that everyone knows but give them a new twist. A fundamental element in my writing is that myth is based at some point in the past on a real event, but over time, it’s meaning and interpretation change. I spent many years doing the research and of course with a novel, you only get to include a small percentage of that.
E: The Witch of Babylon is the first book in a Mesopotamian Trilogy featuring John Madison, a New York art dealer. Can you give us a little sneak-peek of what the next books are going to be about?
DJ: We’ve called it a trilogy because I see the three books as more like three volumes of one work rather than a traditional series. In the next book Madison hunts for a lost seventeenth century manuscript and the truth about an ancient Babylonian demon. In Book Three, in a quest to find Satan’s throne, Madison discovers the real origin of angels.
E: What authors inspire you? Do you have any literary role models?
DJ: I guess I would say both humbled and inspired by great writers. There are so many that I love. In my genre – antiquity thrillers – no one comes close to Umberto Eco (Name of the Rose) or Arturo Perez Reverte (Club Dumas). I adore Robert Harris (The Ghost) and Cormack McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses).
E: Where is your favorite place for writing? Do you have any special writing rituals?
DJ: I’m more wedded to my lap top than a particular place. It’s my constant companion. When I brilliantly dumped water on my last one and ruined it, I nearly had a nervous breakdown!
E: Which three of your favorite books would you recommend everybody to read?
DJ:  Oh I just love this question. Is there anything better than being able to share one’s favourite books? I’ll stay away from the classics like Tolkien and Dune because so many people have already read them. For tremendous suspense and great writing, I’d recommend Jeff Long’s “The Wall.” For a wonderfully dense read that you just want to curl up and devote yourself to, read Michael Cox’s “The Meaning of Night.” And for a fabulous take on the Jane Eyre story, try “The Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rys.
E: Do you have any other hobbies that you enjoy?
DJ: I’m totally addicted to rock/blues guitar, and enjoy going to live performances. Writing The Witch brought me in touch with Arabic-fusion music which I’ve grown to love. I swim and hike a lot at the cottage.
Random Questions:

- white or dark chocolate? Dark, darker, darkest!
- coffee or tea? Never miss my afternoon tea break!
- sunset or sunrise? Is there really a sunrise? I’m a confirmed night owl.
- favorite fictional character?  This is too hard. How does one choose? Guess I’d say both Le Carre’s George Smiley and his alter ego Hani Salaam, the head of Jordan’s secret service in “Body of Lies” by David Ignatius.
-ebook or printed copy? I stare at a computer screen all day so I’m still wedded to the printed page for reading pleasure before I turn in for the night

D.J, thank you so much for joining us today! 
It was a great honor for me to read and review your book and I can't thank you enough for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today! 
I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing your next books!

 Blog Tour Stops 
(make sure to visit them all!)


And here's a little surprise for you, my readers! Since I LOVED The Witch of Babylon, I decided I want to share a copy of this fantastic book with one lucky reader. I am not giving away my own ARC, na-ah, too precious! I will, however, buy a copy on Amazon and send it to whoever wins this giveaway.

This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL.
Contest runs until July 5th, 2011
To enter you need to be a GFC follower of my blog. No PO Boxes this time, please~!

Here's the form:

Monday, June 20, 2011

An Apple for Zoe by Thomas Amo (The Forsaken #1) (Review)

Genre:Horror, Thriller, Supernatural
Publication.Date  March 21st 2011
Published By:  Create Space
WebsiteThomas Amo | Twitter
An Apple for Zoe - Goodreads
My review copy:Purchased on Amazon
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Some Murders Shouldn't Be Investigated

The City of San Francisco is locked in a grip of fear. A series of occult murders has led, Inspector Thomas James, to a crime scene similar to a murder committed 90 years ago in the once grand Aleris Hotel. A place where power barons of the early 20th Century engaged in witchcraft. And silent film stars indulged in the most wicked of sins.

A place where no one questions the black smoke that rises from the hotel's incinerators in the middle of the night.

“I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s business!”
 “Please let me in, I only want to drag you to hell with me.”
"I'm gunna git yew!"

         An Apple for Zoe by Thomas Amo is a breath of fresh air in the paranormal department. This fantastic novel is a perfect blend of murder mystery, action and supernatural horror. Dark and engrossing, it’s most definitely one of my top favorite reads so far this year.

     The story takes off with Inspector Thomas James being called to investigate a mysterious murder case. The body of a young, beautiful woman has been found in a funeral house. Her corpse has been placed in a coffin and the murderer took care of all the preparations to her funeral, including combing her hair and applying make-up.  The bizarre crime  is only the beginning of a series of freakish events.  The deeper we go into the story, the more surreal the whole thing gets. There’s just so much going on that at times it’s really hard to keep up with the plot. With dead bodies popping up everywhere and a crazy Nazi killed on the loose, Inspector James is about to face the most dangerous case in his career.  

     An Apple for Zoe is a mind-blowing read. It has everything you’d expect from a solid horror/thriller: the unknown, the unexpected, the unbelievable and the unstoppable! Once you start reading you won’t be able to put it down and when you finish it, you’ll find it impossible to get it out of your head.

     The subtle descriptions bring both the characters and the locations to life. I liked the protagonists. Thomas and Ashton had realistic qualities and it was easy to get emotionally involved in their stories. I definitely liked how normal and down to earth they seemed, not some idealized, know-it-all people who act like CSI superstars. These are the kind of characters the reader can easily identify with. 

     Storyline-wise, Thomas Amo builds the momentum well throughout the whole novel, slipping in plenty of unexpected twists along the way to keep the reader captivated on the way to an explosive conclusion. It’s an edgy, disquieting and absolutely mesmerizing story that tears along at a breakneck speed. With every chapter comes a powerful blow and by the time you reach the last page you feel like you’ve been completely KO’ed. This is hands down one of the craziest (in a good way!) stories ever! 

     Amo has crafted a cracking page-turner, masterfully building tension throughout the whole novel to a crescendo finish; and a cliff-hanger ending that will leave readers stunned and wanting more. I’m really, really looking forward to Thomas Amo’s next installment in The Forsaken series!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

(GPT) Our Epic-Scale Lives... by Stephen Zimmer

I'm honored to be joined today by a very talented Fantasy writer, Stephen Zimmer. I'm deeply impressed with his storytelling skills. His books are beautifully written and flavorful. If you consider yourself a fan of Fantasy genre, you should definitely pick up Stephen's books! You won't regret!

Guys, please give a warm welcome to Stephen, author of The Fires in Eden Series...

About Stephen:

     Born in Denver, Colorado, Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning fantasy author and filmmaker based out of Lexington, Kentucky.
Stephen has two series being published through Seventh Star Press.  One is the epic fantasy Fires in Eden Series, which was launched with Crown of Vengeance  (winner of the 2010 Pluto Award for Best Novel).  Book 2, Dream of Legends, was released in January of 2011. The other is the epic urban fantasy series The Rising Dawn SagaThe Rising Dawn Saga launched in spring of 2009 with The Exodus Gate (nominated for a 2009 Pluto Award).  The next step was taken in June of 2010 with The Storm Guardians. Highly prolific, Stephen is adhering to a release schedule that sees a new book approximately every seven months!

Another recent addition to his published work was the short story "In the Mountain Skies", in the Dreams of Steam steampunk anthology (edited by Kimberly Richardson), from Kerlak Publishing.

As a filmmaker, Stephen has credits in fantasy and horror, including the supernatural thriller Shadows Light (feature), The Sirens (horror short film), and Swordbearer (fantasy short film).  Swordbearer debuted in early 2011 and is currently being exhibited on the convention and festival circuit.  Featuring a special appearance by former WWE wrestler Al Snow, the film is based upon the H. David Blalock novel Ascendant.

In addition to his busy writing and filmmaking endeavors, Stephen appears regularly at conventions, bookstores, and a range of other events, maintaining a thorough, year-round personal appearance schedule that is one of the most active in the industry.
Updates and information about Stephen can always be obtained at www.stephenzimmer.com His blog can be found at stephenzimmer.blogspot.com, and his Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/sgzimmer

Our Epic-Scale Lives and Their Relation to Epic-scale Books

a guest post by:
Stephen Zimmer

     I’ve never been the hermit kind of author. I tend to get out and about quite a lot, whether it involves visits to genre conventions, book fairs, or bookstores. I strive to meet my readers in person, as often as I possibly can.

     At these events, I regularly find myself getting a little friendly razzing from fellow authors, and some readers, about the size of my novels. I’ve heard it all … “door-stoppers”, “tree-killers”, “those big bricks”, and many other creative descriptions used for epic-scale novels.

     I can’t avoid this, as I do write epic-scale stories. There are two series that I currently have out in publication: the Fires in Eden Series, which is fantasy in a medieval-style setting, and The Rising Dawn Saga, which is fairly unique, in that it is true epic-scale urban fantasy. I currently have two books out in each series, with the third Rising Dawn Saga book slated for release at the beginning of August.

     I enjoy all kinds of fiction as a reader, and have written many stories that are not epic-scale; as those who have been meeting my steampunk characters Solomon Maccabee, and his faithful feline companion Harvey, have discovered. But it is epic fantasy that I am most passionate about, in regards to a particular mode of storytelling.

     So what draws me to epic fantasy? Why do I like telling this kind of story more than any other?

     It is true that the casts are larger, the plots are more complex in nature, and the work involved becomes immense when it comes to the research and development of a series of this type. The read is not a lighter one, meant to be skimmed on a beach, or dallied with alongside 3 or 4 other books at the same time.

     Then again, the best things in life don’t come easy. A little effort brings a larger reward, and I like to think that the richness and depth in these kinds of tales do offer great rewards to the reader willing to immerse into them. They offer new, wonderful discoveries the second and third times that they are read, and they build solidly upon their foundations, until a striking edifice is created.

     The epic-scale story encourages you to look at the world with a broader perspective, the proverbial “big picture”, as much as it beckons to an understanding of the role that everyone plays in the greater fabric. This, in a very profound way, reflects the lives that each and every one of us have.

     In my stories, there is no single dominant character, but instead a range of individuals who each bring something of intrinsic value to the plot. The contributions of each character is vital to the larger fictional story, just as everyone in a given community has a special, and integral, role to play in our own living story. The teacher, the solider, the sanitation worker, the nurse, and the food server all represent contributions whose absence would be quickly noted in any given community.

     In a similar way, the absence of various characters in the principle ensemble of my books would be sorely missed for their own important contributions. In the Rising Dawn Saga, the teenaged Seth Engel’s inquisitiveness, the older radio host Benedict Darwin’s open mind, and former marine Gregory Andreas’s fortitude all lead to major contributions to the overall plot, and the absence of any one of them would be a severe blow to the resistance to the malignant Convergence. In the Fires in Eden series, Lee Chen’s life experience, Erika Laesig’s assertiveness, and Derek Decker’s discipline all contribute to the survival of modern day individuals finding themselves in an utterly foreign, medievalist world.

     The epic-scale story also allows writers the broadest range possible in the telling of a story. You can zoom in on the most intimate, interior thought of a given character, as much as you can pull back to a perspective that takes in the face of the world, and even universe, itself. As in Crown of Vengeance (Book One of the Fires in Eden Series), Janus Roland’s interior struggles with the loss of his father, and the vivid dreams he experiences, can go side by side with events involving massive invasions of Saxany and the Five Realms; both attacks instigated by an enigmatic figure with ambitions to corral all realms in Ave. The bickering between two college-age women, friends who are no longer seeing eye to eye, can go side by side with the dramatic launch of flying monstrosities, which are used to unveil a new, very destructive method of war. In the Rising Dawn Saga, Arianna Darwin can take a casual trip to see her uncle, while a powerful Avatar can pronounce a terrible doom upon an ancient world.

     The cosmic and the individual walk in the same procession, seamlessly, as threads of many are used to weave a much larger tapestry. The tale is therefore explored from many different angles, giving a reader the advantage of many sides to the main story.

     It is this juxtaposition of the grand scheme with the personal and intimate that I find really compelling about epic-scale stores. Character is not lost, while plots can soar without boundary. The uncanny relation to real life is also fascinating to consider, in the interwoven threads of individual lives that make up the greater world as we know it.

     So, when all is said and done, I guess I’ll take the jests and quips about my “big books” in stride, and continue to be very satisfied with my choice to be an epic-scale storyteller. If you haven’t dived into an epic-scale adventure yet, I strongly encourage you to give it a try, as fascinating worlds and a host of vibrant characters await you!

Isn't that just one awesome post? I loved it! How about you, guys?
Both Stephen and I would love to see your comments!

Stephen, thank you so much  for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us here today! I'm looking forward to reviewing your books!

Published November 1st 2009 by Seventh Star Press

On a night that begins no different from any other, strange mists engulf Janus Roland, Erika Laesig, Mershad Shahab, and several others going about their lives in a quiet midwestern town. When the mist dissipates, they all find themselves looking up into the bright skies of a new, incredible world.

Without explanation of why it has happened, or any notion of where they are, they embark upon a grand adventure within the fantastical world of Ave. Some find themselves in the lands of the Saxan Kingdom, while others have emerged within the lands of the Onan, one of the tribes in the Five Realms confederation.

Storms of war loom over both Saxany and the Five Realms, as invasion forces mass under the inspiration of The Unifier, a mysterious, captivating figure whose influence has swept across the surface of Ave ever since His rise to power in the Gallean duchy of Avanor. It is a war that will be fought in the skies, upon the seas, on land, and even in places non-physical in nature.

A majestic, epic fantasy that begins many adventures and journeys across a diverse and enthralling world, filled with races and creatures both familiar and new, Crown of Vengeance lights the flame of the Fires in Eden series, bringing to life a bold, far-ranging, and grand new venture within the realms of fantasy literature

(from Goodreads)

Other books by Stephen Zimmer:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Death Whispers by Tamara Rose Blodgett (Death Series #1) (Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Paranormal
Publication.Date  March 30th 2011
Published By:  Tamara Rose Blodgett
WebsiteTamara Rose Blodgett
Death Whispers - Goodreads
My review copy:Review copy from the author (Thank You!)
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon

     Death Whispers, a Futuristic Paranormal tale of friendship, romance and government intrigue, explores the life of fourteen year-old, Caleb Hart, "normal" teen and corpse-raiser...

Caleb has the most rare of the paranormal powers, Cadaver-Manipulation (aka corpse-raiser). In this world of the future, with Brain Impulse "pulse" Technology's wide-spread use and influence keenly realized, routine school inoculation has expanded to include a pharmaceutical cocktail, which once administered, unlocks the genetic potential for paranormal abilities. Using this small window of puberty, teens who have the genetic propensity find themselves manifesting extraordinary gifts; some of which garner the full attention of our government. Caleb must camouflage his new "talent" during the mandatory eighth grade Aptitude Test so that he remains undiscovered while establishing choice for his future. However, events beyond his control systematically reveal Caleb and his friends, which force them to fight for their freedom. In the midst of this struggle, his girlfriend's father battles to reassert his abusive dominance in her life while a couple of "peer enemies" thwart his efforts of secrecy at every turn. In the explosive climax, Caleb must protect his friends, and Jade, the one he loves...at all costs.

"It was gonna be a hurricane of crap, and I was in the eye of it."
"Mom knew about The Hunger. In fact, I would use the phrase, “I Hunger.” Which loosely translated meant something like, what is there to eat in this house in the next five seconds. My friends also had The Hunger and we'd fall upon the kitchen table as locusts, and The Hunger would be abated, temporarily."

     Yes! Finally a story told from a male protagonist’s point of view! Ever since I read Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy, I was on the hunt for another book like that. I thought Ness did a great job in his book, but Tamara Rose Blodgett did an even better one! I was literally blown away by her writing style and flawless storytelling. Tamara, are you really an Indie writer? It’s really hard to believe that!

     Random rambling aside, let’s get down to the plot! 

     The protagonist of this book, a fourteen-year-old boy named Caleb Hart, discovers that he possesses a very rare paranormal power. He can raise and control the dead. This special power, called Cadaver Manipulation, might seem like a pretty cool and useful thing, but in reality it’s nothing but trouble. It’s a very unique quality, only one person before Caleb has been (un)lucky enough to have it and this person, well, let’s just say he didn’t end up well. 

     Caleb happens to be the son of the first scientist to map the human genome. When we meet him it’s year 2025, and the world sure has changed a lot. For one thing, the technology is super advanced now. People don’t use normal phones to communicate anymore, they “pulse” each other, which basically means that their phone devices were modified to pick up their thoughts and send them to whoever and wherever – instantly! (I personally think it was a totally brilliant idea!)

     In eighth grade, all the kids must take the nationwide aptitude test to determine what kind of paranormal power they possess and how strong on the scale from 1 to 5 is it. Apparently puberty is the exact time when everyone has to get tested, because scientists have proven that that’s the time when the abilities come online.  And what kind of abilities are we exactly talking about? There’s a wide range of paranormal powers you could have, from something as benign as Empath, Telepathy, Pyrokenesis, Astral-Projection to a more troublesome ones like AFTD.  AFTD stands for Affinity for the Dead. This ability usually means that someone can communicate with the dead. However, in Caleb’s case, the ability manifests itself very strongly, not only can he hear the dead, but he can also animate them and control their actions. And like that wasn’t enough already, Caleb discovers that when someone/something is about to die, he can resurrect them. Although it sounds like a very useful ability, it might also be a very problematic one. Let’s not forget that we’re talking about a young teenager here. Caleb wants to go to school and hang out with his friends. Above all, he wants to be able to decide his own future. That, for sure, won’t be possible, if the government officials learn about his powers. No doubt he would be taken away from his family and forced to work for the government.  It seems like the safest thing to do, is staying off the government's radar and ensuring that he won’t be discovered. But how to do that when the aptitude test is only a few days away? 

     I loved it! I genuinely loved it! Death Whispers is one of those “can’t-flip-the-pages-fast-enough” novels. The story flow is so natural and easy-breezy that your mind won’t even register the pages turning,. It’s as if you’re watching an episode of your favorite TV show or your best friend is telling you the most intriguing story ever! It gave me goose-bumps! 

     I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful the narrative voice is. The dialogs are so full of life and natural! Some authors seem to have a big problem with dialogs, they’re either too flat or way too overdone. For TR Blodgett writing from a 14-year-old-boy’s perspective seems to be as easy as breathing.  Her writing is simplistic, easy to read and entertaining. I had so much fun devouring this book. 

     The characters are fantastic, too! They’re realistic, intriguing and vibrant, and it’s easy to get emotionally involved in their story. I especially liked Caleb’s parents, they reminded me of my parents in so many ways! My favorite characters, though, were the JJ’s – they were hilarious and I really liked how they supported Caleb. 

Bottom line… I am a FAN!!!
Looking forward to seeing where TR Blodgett takes us in the next installment.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

(ARC review) Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Genre:Young Adult, Paranormal 
Publication.Date  June 14th 2011
Published By:  Philomel (Penguin)
WebsiteNova Ren Suma 
Imaginary Girls - Goodreads
My review copy:ARC provided by the publisher *Thank you!!*
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

     Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

"When you forget how bad it hurts, you feel so free"
     "This is how I know blood is meaningless; family connections are a lot like old gum -- you don't have to keep chewing. You can always spit it out and stick it under the table. You can walk away."
     "She was acting like she could forbid me from having an emotion. She could shove a hand down my throat and wiggle her fingers as far as they'd go, plucking out stuff she didn't want in there, like she did when we got up the courage to clean out last season's moldy takeout containers from the fridge. She'd do it fast, and didn't even hold her nose."

A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves - a special kind of double.  ~Toni Morrison
      Wow, what a mesmerizing, ominous and eerie read that was! Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma is definitely not your typical Young Adult novel. It’s dark and disquieting, and it will leave you deeply disturbed. Reading this book is like being stuck in a bad dream. Doesn’t matter how hard you try, you can’t make yourself wake up. And even when you finally do wake up, you still won’t be able to shake off the reminiscence of it.

     The story revolves around Chloe and her older half-sister, Ruby, and is told from Chloe’s first-person’s perspective. Ruby is the most popular girl in their small hometown. Everyone loves her, admires her, follows her and grants her every wish. It seems like she has the whole town magically wrapped around her finger. She’s a free spirit that can’t be caged or held down by anything or anyone. She knows what she wants from life and exactly which strings to pull to get it. The only thing Ruby truly cares about is Chloe. Being the older sister, Ruby feels responsible for Chloe and will do everything in her power to protect her.  And when I say everything, I mean more than you can imagine.

     Chloe looks up to her big sis.  Thanks to Ruby, she gets to attend cool parties and hang out with cool people. The two girls are inseparable. Ruby is always there for Chloe, she knows exactly what to do to encourage her and make her feel happy. It seems like nothing bad could ever happen to Chloe at Ruby’s watch.  

     One night, at a party at the local reservoir, something goes terribly wrong. Chloe, encouraged by her sister, tries swimming all the way to the other shore and back. Somewhere in the middle of the deep, dark water she comes across a floating boat. She grabs onto the edge of it, grateful that she can catch her breath and rest a bit, and then she feels something very cold.. something with fingers… It turns out it was her classmate's dead body. This discovery will change Chloe’s life forever and it will be the beginning of a series of bizarre and horrifying events.

     The truth is, many authors can set up suspenseful and mystifying situations, but there are very few of them whose prose and dialogue is simplistic and absolutely beautiful at the same time. This intersection between vaguely supernatural and the fantastically enthralling is what makes Nova Ren Suma’s book so masterful. It’s a spectacular page turner that you won’t be able to cast aside. It’s truly a magnificent example of craftsmanship and storytelling that will keep you frantically turning the pages long past bedtime. 

     For about 250 pages or so you won’t even begin to understand what’s going on. Yes, you will probably get frustrated and the never-ending “Ruby this, Ruby that” might annoy you, but trust me when I say, every word of this book accounts for something. The last 100 pages are truly frightening and the conclusion of the story left me shivering. All of a sudden I lost any enthusiasm for swimming in deep, dark lakes and other bodies of water. Throughout most of the story I was totally clueless and baffled. I couldn’t tell where the story was going and it only added to the overall eerie atmosphere of the book. I don’t think I ever read a novel that would keep me guessing for so long.

     The exceptionally strong bond between Ruby and Chloe was deeply touching and perhaps even slightly disturbing at times.  Their love so powerful, it could bend the reality and reach beyond the borders of this world. Beautiful, touching, magical.

     Nova Ren Suma has a sharp eye for detail. Thanks to her smooth storytelling you can visualize the creepy setting of the novel and almost taste the surreal world she created.  Chloe’s narrative voice was very genuine and real. I could almost imagine her sitting very close to me and whispering her secrets in my ear, in a monotone, creepy voice.  And honestly, I get goose bumps just thinking about it! The characters were weird, but I guess that’s exactly how they were meant to be, because they blend really well with this story.

     Overall, I had a blast reading this book. In a genre where everything has been done a thousand times already, it’s really nice to see original ideas surface. I’m a huge fan of everything dark and twisted, and this book was just a perfect treat for me. I loved it. I simply loved it. 

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