Happy Publication Day – Unlikely Hero by Sian B. Claven

Sian B. Claven’s Unlikely Hero is available now – read the synopsis and pick up your copy today!

Synopsis – Unlikely Hero

In a world where transport is the main control of the universe, one spacehiker is tasked with the unfortunate job of helping two refugees get across the civilised universe without being detected. The only problem is it sounds easier than it’s done. With no trust between them, Jasy must get Mark and Lizzie the hell out of dodge for a reason they won’t tell her. While Mark and Lizzie must place their safety, their lives, in the hands of someone who breaks the law on a daily basis. 
From award winning author Sian B. Claven comes her first fantasy novel debut – Unlikely Hero: A spacehiker adventure.


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A Story of Parallel Universes and Human Histories

Synopsis

Wherever Hel looks, New York City is both reassuringly familiar and terribly wrong. As one of the thousands who fled the outbreak of nuclear war in an alternate United States—an alternate timeline—she finds herself living as a refugee in our own not-so-parallel New York. The slang and technology are foreign to her, the politics and art unrecognizable. While others, like her partner Vikram, attempt to assimilate, Hel refuses to reclaim her former career or create a new life. Instead, she obsessively rereads Vikram’s copy of The Pyronauts—a science fiction masterwork in her world that now only exists as a single flimsy paperback—and becomes determined to create a museum dedicated to preserving the remaining artifacts and memories of her vanished culture.

But the refugees are unwelcome and Hel’s efforts are met with either indifference or hostility. And when the only copy of The Pyronauts goes missing, Hel must decide how far she is willing to go to recover it and finally face her own anger, guilt, and grief over what she has truly lost.


Stats

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 324 pages
  • Published March 5th 2019 by Tin House Books
  • ISBN1947793241 (ISBN13: 9781947793248)

My Thoughts

The butterfly affect. Beautiful.

Excerpt from Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess

K Chess’s debut novel, “Famous Men Who Never Lived” is a diverse blend of different science fiction, sociological, and psychological ideas. Profoundly cerebral, it is a collection of thoughts that pose the question: who we are, and how do we go on? Are individuals a collection of their past moments? Or, are people (specifically the UDP) the promise of what they can bring to the future?

The premise of this story is simple. Take a group of people, UDP (universally displaced persons), from a failing dimension almost identical to ours, and have them escape to our dimension. Things are almost the same, but not quite. Technology is slightly different, history and culture are almost but not quite the same. How do survivors of that world fare in our new one. That is the questions K Chess asks. The UDP’s each have a different past both large and small, and even though they have gone through an intensive reintegration program to adapt to the new timeline, they still remain a curiosity to some and a focus of outright hostility and prejudice for others. If you have ever seen the show Fringe in season 3 of their run, they had a very similar premise. I felt like a lot of the tone from Fringe and Famous Men was very similar.

The narrative follows different people as they surf the woes and difficulties adapting to living in a new timeline — specifically those of Hel and Vikram. Vikram’s favorite author, a man named Sleight, died at a early age in out timeline. Thus he never got to write the book Pyronaughts. When Vikram fled his own dimension he grabbed a copy of this and with the destruction of his home world, his copy is the only known copy in existence. Hel feels as if there is something strange about Sleight, a divergence that happened around his life and death between the two timelines and Vikram and Hel decide to figure out what that is. There is a lot more to this story, but I don’t want to give it away.

Thus prepared for the worst, Hel brought practically nothing. Packed in her padded shoulder bag: her portable ordinator and its charger (not compatible with anything here, of course), the medical journal she happened to be reading at the time, her allergy medication, two liters of water. And just to be safe, inside a plastic folder, her passport, birth certificate, and a copy of her New York State medical license.

Excerpt from Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess

“Famous Men Who Never Lived” is marketed as a science fiction novel; however, I felt it was more a character study based in a science fiction premise. The writing is well done, the characters are well-formed and interesting, especially for a debut novel, but I felt that the story did not know precisely what it wanted to be and that led to it feeling choppy chapter to chapter. I enjoyed reading it, but due to its narrative style I could not connect with the story as much as I wanted to.


Procurement

I received an eARC from Netgalley and Tin House Books in exchange for my honest review.


About the Author

K Chess was a W.K. Rose Fellow and her short stories have been honored by the Nelson Algren Award and the Pushcart Prize. She earned an MFA from Southern Illinois University and currently teaches at GrubStreet. She lives with her wife in Providence, RI.

Review of Prince of Air and Darkness (The Darkest Court #1) by M.A. Grant

Three dark speckles in the dust. Roark’s blood. Probably from the blow to his head. He was injured. I press my fingertips to them and the ley line bays like a hound, flinging itself forward. It wants me to let it loose. It wants to hunt and chase and find Roark. It wants to rub against his glamour because nothing else in the world feels as good, and it wants me to be happy.

Excerpt from The Prince of Air and Darkness by M.A Grant

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Edition
  • 310 pages
  • Expected publication: February 25th, 2019 by Carina Press
  • ASINB07GB7WD2G
  • Edition Language English
  • Series The Darkest Court #1

My Thoughts

“I don’t want to see him again tonight. But part of me craves it because he’s the only person who calls my future like it is. Who calls me like I am.”

Excerpt from The Prince of Air and Darkness by M.A Grant

The Prince of Air and Darkness is a book with a lot of promise. It felt like in much of the story the author was getting a feel for their characters and the story up unto the end where it all fused into a coherent story.
The story centers around two men at a college for otherworldy non-humans. Both the fairy courts young people attend this college in hopes of making friends and fostering diplomacy. The first man is named Phineas; he is a rare person indeed. He is one of the few humans in history who can channel a ley line though himself and wield power, or die trying. Previous humans that could use a ley line snuffed themselves out like a roman candle. His roommate and frenemy is Prince Roark, son of Queen Mab and all around pain in Phineas’s ass. Phineas has lived longer than all of his predecessors but is starting to wear down from the barrage of attacks from supernatural beings and the strain of the simmering energy always coursing through his veins. After six years of sharing a space, the men have come to a bit of a detent, although Roark feels compelled to save Finn repeatedly from monsters frequently putting himself at significant personal risk. Finn feels compelled to be around Roark as much as he can. Their back and forth and sexual tension culminates in a great love story between the two of them.

On a very positive note, I love that the writer wrote the two lead gentlemen as people rather than stereotypes or tropes. The Author’s attention to detail about their personality shaped the two leads and built them as well-rounded people which helped solidify their relationship for me. Also, The authors use of dialog was well done. It helped with the plodding pacing and kept the story moving forward. Additionally, I enjoyed the supporting characters and would like to see more of them; the leads’ roommates included a sensitive bridge troll and a satyr. That is fun! I hope that in the future the author gives them more story time. I think it would enrich the often confusing setting and pacing.

“He kissed me and I thought

I’d known what it

meant to burn before…”


Excerpt from The Prince of Air
and Darkness by M.A Grant

I found myself getting lost often in the beginning to the middle of the story. The jumping back and forth through personal past moments betwixt both main characters was difficult to understand in parts. As the story progressed, though, it smoothed itself out as the reader obtained more background information. The pacing was also languid and plodding in the beginning and middle of the story, and it felt too drawn out — too much dancing around each other. Many times I felt like shaking the damn characters and shouting at them. The dancing around each other did add a certain degree of tension between the two leads that eventually led to a beautifully done romance, but till that point it was frustrating. Because of this, I lost my connection to the characters at a few points.

M/M romance is not often written, should be written more, and should be done this well. Pacing and point of view issues notwithstanding this is a well-done love story. It is an excellent first book that is shaping up to be an even better series.


Procurement

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my open and honest review.


About the Author

M.A. Grant has always loved reading and writing, but fell in love with the romance genre when she started working at an independent bookstore in high school. After meeting her husband in college, they began a steady northward migration and are now happily living in the rugged beauty of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. When she’s not calling out to passing ravens or making a cup of tea, she’s writing dark and moving stories.

Happy Publication Day!

Sian B. Claven’s Asylum I: Some Things Should Not Be Forgotten is available now – read an excerpt from this new horror novel below and pick up your copy today!



About – Asylum I: Some things Should Not be Forgotten

Hans is a brilliant doctor, sent to an Asylum in the middle of nowhere to continue his post-world war experiments on the insane.
Karen is a bubbly nurse whose sole intention in the world is to do good and help those that cannot help themselves.
Good intentions cross into power hungry mania in this horrific tale of how all their failed experiments come back to haunt them, and how the Asylum holds its own secrets.
“Asylum makes your hair stand on end. This is creepy and dark, yet incredibly fascinating. To delve into the mind of the ‘scientist’ at this asylum is to find sheer madness roiling in those depths, as well as utter self-delusion. The very stones of this madhouse is drenched with horror … a clever and twisted MUST read!” Elaina J. Davidson.


Excerpt Teaser

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When the Word “City” Means So Much More

“I close my eyes and imagine that when I open them again I will have outgrown all of my feelings. Sometimes I clasp my eyelids until I almost see sparks”

Excerpt from The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

About

From the publisher, “If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.” 

Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace — through the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below.

But in a world where time means only what the ruling government proclaims, and the levels of light available are artificially imposed to great consequence, lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage, and as common as grains of sand. And one such pariah, sacrificed to the night, but borne up by time and a mysterious bond with an enigmatic beast, will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence”


Stats

“Bianca is the most unusual person I have ever met.”

Excerpt from The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover 
  • 368 pages
  • Expected publication: February 12th, 2019 by Tor Books
  • ISBN0765379961 (ISBN13: 9780765379962)
  • Edition Language English

“The video cuts out. I’m left staring at empty space, feeling sorrow for a woman who died a long time ago, one way or another.”

Excerpt from The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

My Thoughts

The land bakes, or freezes depending on where you are. Human ingenuity and creativity have completely stagnated. Once cutting edge technologies ten generations ago, have now begun to fail. Cities that are separated by almost pathless land have become mythical and divided on the governance of their citizens. While political and societal upheaval shakes the foundations of the city, Xiosphanti, people begin to rage at their cog-like existence in the dying machine of their city while ecological disaster looms in the distance.

Sophie, a student from a more impoverished background, plods day to day at her wealthy school. She is attracted to Bianca, her roommate, who comes from the upper class and is in a different social stratosphere than her. This attraction shared between the two of them emboldens Sophia to take the fall for some of Bianca’s more questionable choices and this starts Sophie’s path as either a savior or her undoing.

The name Charlie Jane Anders is synonymous with excellent writing and incredible world building. Her previous works: All The Birds in the Sky, Six Months Three Days, Rick Manning Goes for Broke as well as few others have garnered her a Nebula Award for Best Novel, a Hugo award for Best Novelette as well as a smattering of others. Anders has significant science fiction writing cred. With all that being said I had gigantic hopes and excitement for this book, and sadly it fell flat for me.

There is a whole lot of good in this book. Anders is a master world builder and she created a unique world system complete with politics, races, gender identity, sociology, and a rich colonial history. She also interwove prominent environmental concerns and adaption into her world system. Ander’s has a unique approach that I appreciate as a reader. Instead of just saying, “it was blindingly hot.” She talks about environmental and architectural adaptation to a world with no definitive circadian rhythm and how that can play mary hell with humans ability to mentally rest and physically sleep.

The world bisects into light and dark. The light side is scorching and blinding while the dark side never sees the light. It has a complete lack of warmth. It reminds me a bit of that scene from “The Chronicles of Riddick” where they are trying to escape the underground prison, and as the sun starts moving across the landscape, the ground explodes from the heat. This is pretty cool when you describe an entire society based around the presence of too much or too little warmth. The impending doom of the cities due to much imperialism. To much rigid control. The reader knows that the end is coming, but not how.

Each character has a definitive voice. I never once got confused about who was talking or how they were feeling about a situation. I loved peeking into the minds of the main characters: Sophia, Bianca, and Mouth. Each viewed the world very differently and how, by the end of the book, each character has changed in their way is bittersweet. Sophia comes into her own while other characters show their true colors.

The relationships and interactions between the main characters were hard to read but ultimately became a source of strength for the writing. Bianca is a classic character of privilege. She floats through life and dabbles in politics or other things that tickle her proverbial fancy while not reaping the consequences of her actions. At the same time, Bianca abuses by Sophie. Sophie gives her a chance after chance while Bianca ultimately does not deserve her. In the end, Sophie finally sees the true Bianca and how she will never develop emotionally, nor will she see past herself or her wants and desires for something greater.

I am giving this book a lower rating because of pacing. This story is slow. So much so that I almost DNF. I kept waiting for the story to pick up and get going, and it did at about page 250 or so. But during the first 250 pages, I was waiting on any inertia to start the characters moving towards their outcomes. Ultimately the ending saved the story and tied everything together. This is an impressive character study and example of worldbuilding however the pace of the story made it very difficult to read for me.


Procurement

An ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an open and honest review. Quotes are taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change upon publication.


“I let out a tiny gasp, which sounds monstrously loud to me after so long kept silent.”

Excerpt from The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

About the Author – Charlie Jane Anders

I’m the author of All the Birds in the Sky, and the forthcoming The City in the Middle of the Night. Plus a short story collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others, and a novella called Rock Manning Goes For Broke.

I’m probably the only person to have become a fictional character in a Star Trek novel and in one of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books.

I used to write for a site called io9.com, and now I write for various places here and there. 

I won the Emperor Norton Award, for “extraordinary invention and creativity unhindered by the constraints of paltry reason.” I’ve also won a Hugo Award, a Nebula Award, a William H. Crawford Award, a Theodore Sturgeon Award, a Locus Award, and a Lambda Literary Award.

Plus much more.

Review of Kingdom Cold by Brittni Chenelle

I felt fear seep into my skin before my next question manifested. “Do you want to marry my brother?”

She shook her head. “I don’t want to marry anyone.”

Kingdom Cold – Brittni Chenelle

Stats

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Edition 
  • 276 pages
  • Expected publication: February 14th, 2019
  • ASIN B07L87KQLJ
  • Edition Language English

About

From the author, “Attempted murder, that’s how sixteen-year-old Princess Charlotte’s engagement starts. It seems like the only thing she has in common with Prince Young of Vires is their mutual discontent.

When her kingdom’s attacked, Charlotte’s parents renegotiate her hand in marriage to a handsome stranger with a sinister plan. With the people Charlotte loves dying around her, and her kingdom’s future at stake, the only person she can turn to is the prince she betrayed. But, should she save her kingdom or her heart?

One must fall.


My Thoughts

People who are only charming when it suits them aren’t charming at all.

Kingdom Cold – Brittni Chenelle

I wanted to desperately like this book. The cover was cute; the story sounded interesting and enticing, and the character’s where culturally diverse, but it didn’t sing for me, and that’s ok. Not all stories sing for every person who reads them.

The story follows a cast of royalty through an arranged marriage, betrayal, war, unrequited love, and then eventual marriage. There are many bumps on the way, much like a tamer and more kind version of Game of Thrones.

There are some excellent parts of this story. Firstly, Chenelle wrote a very diverse story culturally. The two leads of the novel, Prince Gray and Princess Charlotte are of Asian and African heritage respectively. I like that; I also like how Chenelle wrote the settings, memories, and environments of the characters reflecting those upbringings. It is not something you often see in literature, and it is not something you see done that isn’t ham-fisted. The author was not throwing up her diversity flag yelling, “hey look at what I did!” She wrote it with class and sensitivity as is befitting. The characters culture is not a thing, it is a part of who they are, and that is how it should be written.

Secondly, I liked the leads in the story, especially Gray. Gray changed and developed as a character; he became more of himself if that makes sense. I love his progression as a person and leader and felt like he was an exceptional counterpart to Princess Charlotte. Charlotte also demonstrated growth. She started the novel as a typical teenage child with ordinary problems and ended as a scarred, but more emotionally mature adult.

Thirdly, the love story was charming. I don’t want to give too much away, but as the story progresses and the characters mature the bond that develops between the personalities is written well and is lovely.

I felt my skin prickle beneath his unwavering stare. He gave nothing away. Something hot radiated from my forehead down to my chest as if my body understood his message but my brain didn’t know how to translate it.

Kingdom Cold – Brittni Chenelle

The good of the story did not outweigh what did not work for me. I had a difficult time with the points of view changing from chapter to chapter. On the one hand, the multiple points of view were there to lend many voices to the story and/or scene, but they sounded very similar in much of the book. So it became both confusing and repetitious. It did get better as the story progressed, but I found it difficult connecting with any one character aspect because of the shaky beginning.

Also, I found that the story lacked the necessary detail to build a clear picture of events. We hopped from moment to moment before I could get a visual representation of the scene in my head. Again, this led to a disconnection to the characters and the setting.

The plot progression was strange for me also. The events of this story could easily fill three books but are reduced down to a distilled short single book. This seems like an awful missed opportunity. It would have made a killer trilogy.

Brittni Chenelle wrote a solid YA love story. Although the story is plagued with technical problems like pacing, POV, and lack of detail, the central love theme was successful, and the ending comes as quite a shock. Give it a try. It wasn’t for me, but maybe it will be for you.


Procurement

An eARC of this novel was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author

1. She lives in South Korea.
It’s true. She does most of her updates in the morning or at night to account for the time difference. She also infuses most of her novels with her observations about Korean culture. 

2. She’s a Type 1 Diabetic.
She uses an insulin pump for survival and refers to her diabetes as “Beetie” which is what inspired her children’s book “Life with Beetie”. When she wants something from her parents she tells them, “My Beetie hurts.” It’s a trick that has never failed her. 

3. She doesn’t really BELIEVE in fiction. 
Despite all the; Dragons, Elves, and Magic present in her novel “Involuted the Tale of the Red Ribbon Tree”, Brittni INSISTS that it’s a true story. I wouldn’t normally believe it but when browsing some of her old pictures, you can find pictures of her with a mysterious red ribbon tied to her wrist.

4. She’s OBSESSED with dark chocolate. 
She made me put that in and would also like me to inform you (on an unrelated note) that her birthday is in May.

5. She loves video games, anime, and cosplay.
Favorite games: League of Legends, Stardew Valley, Pokemon. Favorite Anime: Avatar the Last Airbender, Your lie in April, Full Metal Alchemist. Cosplay: She once dressed as Korra from Legend of Korra. She’s hoping there will be more brown characters for her to cosplay in the future.
 

6. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s in Creative Writing.

7. She’s working on a Manga/Anime style novel with about 100 images included. 

8. Sorry guys, she’s married. 
If you ask her, she’ll tell you her husband saved her life but everytime someone asks “how” she gives a different reason. I’ve overheard her give about 4 different reasons, but I bet she has more. He must be an amazing guy. 

9. She posts awesome travel pictures on her Instagram. 
Her username is @brittnichenelle. You’re here because you love her unique way of seeing the world, now you can see it in picture form! This is especially good if you have an interest in Asia since that’s where most of her pictures are taken. 

10: Brittni, why did you become a writer?
“I write because I would go crazy if I didn’t. The body is limited but the mind is free to roam among dragons and fairies, it can soar through the air, and breathe underwater, and hold onto love in even the worst conditions. I guess that’s why, because books are not bound by the rules of reality and I am addicted to the freedom– seduced by the possibilities.”

January Wrap up!

January was one of the biggest writing months I have ever had, but in terms of self-care I decided to only post 5 days a week instead of 7. 7 is overkill and you lovely people out there will get sick of me.


What I Read

I had some definite highlights this month: Never Die, The Post, Vigilance, and in an Absent Dream were some of the best books I have read in a long time. I got my horror on for some fabulous spider fun, and also made quite some progress on the Goodreads best graphic novels list.


Book Haul

Netgalley

Some exciting times ahead of me, although not all these books will be done in Feb, a few of them will. Be on the lookout!

Author ARC

I got a whole bunch of publisher and Author ARC’s this month. It was so exciting to get book mail and/or email.

Here is a few of them:

Be looking for reviews coming up on some of these!

Have you read any this month? What was your favorite?