Monday, April 29, 2013

Review of Nowhere To Go by Iain Rowan

An ordinary man who finds himself caught up in a bank raid gone wrong. A murder caught on security camera where the victim doesn't exist. A man with just months to live, who is already living in hell but decides to take on the devil. A mob accountant babysitting a hired killer on a trip to the countryside, and a burglar on an easy job who finds it might not be so easy after all. A con-artist conned, and what a man will do when in the grip of an obsession more important to him than his own life.

Eleven crime stories first published in Alfred Hitchcock's, Ellery Queen's, and elsewhere by award-winning writer Iain Rowan. Eleven stories of what people do when there is nowhere left to go.

4 stars

Nowhere To Go is an anthology telling stories about people who have "nowhere to go" due to various situations they in which they find themselves.  As with all anthologies there were stories that I liked more than others, but on the whole this is a very strong collection.

I won't give a breakdown of all of the stories though I will say that The Remains of My Estate was by far my favorite.  If you are a fan of suspense, crime, thriller, or even a little bit paranormal this is a great collection to check out.  Iain Rowan has opened my eyes with this collection to the fact that he is an author to keep an eye on.  Well done.

Find out more on Amazon or the author webpage.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review of Xannu - The Portal by Paul Dorset

English schoolboy Terry West’s life continues to be a wreck. Ever since his best friend Joe was lost in another land, Terry has continued to pray he would be healed and returned safely. Everything that has happened to date has been his fault. If only he hadn’t given Joe one of his rune coins. Those damn rune coins that transport him to his other world where Terry is the soldier, Teern Truthbringer, tasked with protecting the Xannu. Wars are brewing in the Southern Lands and people from many countries and religions want the Xannu for themselves.

Both Terry’s school-life and private life are a mess and Terry’s girlfriend, Susan, continues to be everywhere that Terry is. All he wants is a little solitude in order to keep himself together, but everything is conspiring against him.

Back in the Southern Lands, Maria is determined to bring Joe home using whatever kind of magic is available to her. But others are plotting to ensure she fails. In a world inhabited by warlocks, seductresses, priests and prophecy, everyone has their own personal agenda.

How will Terry balance the two lives he leads, solve two sets of problems, and understand the lessons he receives from both? Only time will tell. But time is something Terry doesn't have too much of, as everything is unfolding in ways he could never have imagined!

Book 3 of 'The Southern Lands' saga
“To him who is given that destiny, is also given power. Not just a mortal power, but a power over all mankind. A power that will last forever. A power that surpasses all others. Once it is unlocked it will never be tamed. Once it is released it will never be quashed. Once it has struck it will never be quenched.” (The Holy Scriptures of Luux - Tablet II)

4 stars

Xannu - The Portal is the third book of Paul Dorset's Southern Lands saga.  All of the characters from the previous books are back with some stepping up into larger roles and some fading away a bit.  I was glad to see Joe re-emerge as a character as he is a favorite of mine.  I won't get into the plot very much as I don't want to release any spoilers on the book.  That being said I feel that this book lives up to the amount of build that took place in the second novel.

The story continues to build on an epic level as Matthius reveals himself as the Xannu and all the factions that want a piece of him plot to control him.  While life in the Southern Lands is certainly getting more interesting for Teern, Terry is not having a picnic at home himself.  In order to do what he can to help friends he is getting in trouble with his parents and finds himself in a situation that he has no idea how to handle.

The book has a wide open ending leaving me eager to see the next installment.  Although I'm not a big fan of cliffhanger endings I respect them as a literary tool and Paul does it well.  Once again I will be looking forward to the next chapter in this saga, hopefully it won't be too long of a wait.

For more info pick up a copy on Amazon or check out the author's blog.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Guest Post with Chris Ross author of Born and Raised

The process of writing Born & Raised.

When I began the Creative Writing Program at City College of New York, I was like any other hungry writer that wanted to see what he could do, see what people thought of his work, etc. My second semester began in September of 2001, so one can imagine the kind of monkey-wrench that threw into the works. The book I was working on at the time didn’t seem so important anymore. That morning, no more than an hour after the towers fell, the five year old Dominican boy that lived across the hall walked up to me and said - My daddy works up there. But he strong. My daddy strong. What could I do but kiss the top of the boy’s head and tell him - I know he is. I know your daddy’s strong. The boy’s father, a cook at Windows on the World, didn’t make it. I remember talking to a doctor about my overall anxiety, fears, nightmares, etc due to 9/11. It was a free clinic, so I got free advice. The doctor told me to get my hand out of the candy jar, to find a nice girl, settle down and get married. So much for free advice. When I got a chance to teach at a school in a small town in Japan, I put the Program on hold for a year. Not until I got to Japan did I learn that I would be teaching children, something I’d never done. What this did for my writing I can’t say for sure, but being surrounded by Japanese billboards, Japanese menus, conversations on the train, on the street - all in Japanese - if anything all this let me fall in love with the English language again. Six months into my year there, I wrote a short story called Fractured Classics - about a young boy being lied to and then abandoned by his older sister. I cared about this story, cared about its characters. I wanted more. So I wrote backwards. I wrote forwards. I pushed and pulled my way in both directions from where Fractured Classics took place until the book was finished.

Sean fights not to come apart in his small southern Indiana town where hope and defeat stain both sides of the same coin.

Sean is the baby of the Yoakam family, but he’s the only real grown-up in the bunch. By the summer of 1984, it’s been seven years since his mother left, and thirteen-year-old Sean has grudgingly become accustomed to his new life. As he fixes himself root beer floats for dinner and deals with the confusing feelings he gets from admiring the Soft Knits with Flair girl in the Sears catalog, his father, Roy, and his older sister, Billie, focus on their own demons.

Six years later, in the summer of ’90, Sean is a virgin with a high school diploma and isn’t sure what comes next. Given this foundation, where can he go? But then circumstances arise that force Sean to make a choice. Will he try to correct his family’s wrongs, or will he walk away?

Check out the book on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Guest post with Walter Wally

My name is Walter Wally. I write short rhyming stories for kids and adults. My greatest wish would be to travel the world telling my stories to anyone who would be kind enough to listen. But until I can expand my mind wide enough to actually accept that as a possibility, I’m happy to write my stories in books and hope that people will read them themselves.

I’ve often wondered about the process other writers go through when translating their thoughts and ideas into paragraphs and sentences. I know what mine is – it’s a recipe of adrenaline, glee, obsession, and stamina. When I write a story, I feel like I’m putting together a puzzle. Some pieces are easy to find and they fit together perfectly on the first try. But then I get to that point in the puzzle where no piece fits together at all, and I’m tempted to throw the half-made puzzle out the window and down a manhole.

That’s when some strange will within me wakes up and doesn’t allow me to quit. Unlike other things in life, when it comes to writing, I don’t ever give up. Instead, I sit there and stare at the puzzle for hour after hour until somehow my brain looks at the very same pieces in a different way. When that moment happens, the remaining pieces seem to float together on their own and release me from the cold, clammy hands of writer’s block. I then step out of the compartment in my brain that I had been previously locked in, and return to the real world with a new story in my hands. Thank goodness.

In fact, last week I wrote my latest story, and of course, it happened in much the same way. I was lying in bed early in the morning, awake but not yet motivated enough to rise to my feet. All of a sudden the following sentence entered my brain: “Rumor has it that Aurelius Bartokamoos bathes in pudding.” Weird, huh? But, immediately I knew that there was a story to be written based on that line. Or at least an imaginative way for me to spend the next week of my life. Writing gives me that rare opportunity to share something uniquely mine with the rest of the world. And if people happen to appreciate that little piece of myself, I smile at them and thank them and try to keep to myself that they just gave me a beautiful moment that I will cherish forever.

Pick up your copy on Amazon

Follow the author at, twitter, or Facebook.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review - The Wicked Day by Christopher Bunn review

The Darkness Awakes...
Tracking the kidnappers of Giverny Farrow, Jute and his friends discover the Dark is on the march. A long-forgotten enemy has emerged from the pages of history. The land of Tormay must be warned in time before it is too late.

In the city of Hearne, Owain Gawinn desperately tries to ready his forces for the coming battle. Little does he know that treachery is stirring within the gates. Tormay teeters on the brink of war, and the duchies look to Jute as their last hope. But there is an ancient evil waking that even all the power of the wind cannot hope to defeat.

With the hawk, the cantankerous ghost and the assassin Ronan at his side, can Jute save Tormay? On one final, stormy day, the fate of the land will depend on his choice...

4 stars

The Wicked Day (The Tormay Trilogy #3) by Christopher Bunn is the conclusion of the Tormay Trilogy.  The book continues to follow the same cast of characters with a few stepping the importance of their roles up a bit.  This book also has the final confrontation with the Dark and show Jute continuing to mature with the use of his abilities as the Wind.

As the third book in the series if you are considering this book because you enjoyed the first two then there is no reason for hesitation.  Christopher stays true to the writing style that he has established for the series and that is an excellent thing.  His skill with descriptive narrative is once again on display in this book.  Honestly with this being the conclusion there is not a lot of info needed in a review and I really don't want to provide any kind of spoilers, so I'll say that if books one and two held your interest at all do yourself a favor and finish the trilogy.  Bonus points for some fantastic cover art as well!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review - Traveler's Rest by Jonathan Marcantoni

From the political turmoil of 1920s Puerto Rico, to the aftermath of a devastating hurricane in 2005, Traveler's Rest provides a kaleidoscopic look at a family that has lost its identity and torn itself apart. The ghosts of the past and the horrors of the present follow Tony, a recovering heroin addict, as he seeks to reclaim his family's legacy and set his own path in an increasingly chaotic world.

4 stars

Traveler's Rest by Jonathan Marcantoni seems to have originally started out as a collection of short stories and somewhat still has that feel. As the book begins Tony is down on his luck and fully addicted to heroin. The story progresses with Tony getting clean and a friend wanting to take him on a trip across the country to discover themselves. Then there is a jump to a old man talking to waitress in a diner in Cuba, then there is a look at a man trying to survive the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. All of the disparate elements start to come together as the book progresses, but I'll admit to being a bit confused right off the bat.

This book is written primarily from the view point of the downtrodden. The journey that all of these people take shows that there are options available. There are some scenes depicting powerful emotions and that even when people are at their worst some will still do the right thing, even at a high cost to themselves. Even when all hope seems lost it can be found in the strength of good people.

Pick up a copy of the book on Amazon.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Water-Seer by Sky Luke Corbelli review

Ciela de Leon never wanted attention. It's a pity no-one asked her.

Forced to begin her pilgrimage by the Temple of Life, she must become a water-seer or die trying. But when something precious is stolen from her, Ciela must fight alongside a group of terrifying mercenaries to get it back. Now everything she thought she knew about the world is thrown into doubt, and the questions just keep piling on. Who is Ezra Hawkins? What are the Children of Lightning plotting? How do waffles fit in to any of this? And if that wasn't bad enough, she may just be falling in love with a mysterious warrior who knows far too much about life and death. There's also the off chance that she's destined to save the world.

In this exciting sequel to Wind-Scarred, Ciela must fight to discover the secrets hidden just beneath the surface, or be washed away by the tides of fate. Time is running out...

5 stars

Water-Seer is the second book in the Elements Series and the story continues to build.  Ezra continues to learn the truth about the world that he lives in and things are not all that great for him after some of the events in the first book.

Sky continues to use his rather unique tactic of sneaking some pop culture references, both current and past, into the story making for a couple of chuckles when you can catch them.  He also reveals a lot more about the various elemental powers.  The water-seers are especially fascinating, at least from my perspective.

I'm happy to say that this book didn't suffer from the second book slump that a lot of series experience.  It seems that it's very common for the second book to be more about building the third than actually accomplishing anything and Sky deftly avoided falling into that pattern keeping his latest offering flowing wonderfully and remaining extremely entertaining.  The ending leaves some big questions to be answered and I can't wait for the next book to see what happens next.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Quarter the Moon by J.H. Sked review

The first Blue Moon Detectives collection. Two brand new tales from the Blue Moon Detectives characters, plus Basement Blues and Die Laughing.

House Mates - When Astrid moves into her new apartment, she has to deal with an unwanted house mate, and the dark secret she's hiding. Yes, Astrid, There is a Santa - What happens when a centuries old vampire discovers that Santa is real?

Blue Moon Detectives - Saving the (undead) girl shouldn't be this hard...

Die Laughing - The gods are back in town - and they don't play nice. Billy and the gang find themselves fighting a Norse god with a bad habit of killing comedians.

5 stars

Quater the Moon is a collection of the Blue Moon Detective stories.  Since Basement Blues and Die Laughing have been released individually and have already been reviewed I'll focus on the two stories that are new to this collection.

Room Mates tells the story of how Astrid met Ruth and how their friendship became solid, while Yes, Astrid, There is a Santa has the whole crew together while Billy is still a child.  Both stories are excellent additions to the universe that J.H. has created that really help to flush out the characters.

Paranormal comedy is becoming one of my favorite genres thanks to the skills of author like J.H. Sked.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Q&A with Justin Calderone author of LARP The Battle for Verona

For someone who has never heard of live action role playing, or LARPing, how would you describe it?

It’s a very authentic form of battle reenactment, where the participants dress in appropriate period (Medieval, for example) costumes, and relive historic battles. Oftentimes, the battles can be rooted in a fictional world or universe.

You knew very little about LARPing before you wrote your newest book. How did you hear about it, and what piqued your interest?

The movie Role Models, which has a LARP subplot, really introduced me to the concept. LARPing is such an unusual idea…to basically travel back in time, or to another universe, without leaving the 21st century. I had to explore the phenomenon.

What kind of research did you do before you started writing LARP: The Battle for Verona?

I consulted with two LARP organizations, LARP Alliance and 7th Kingdom, to ensure the authenticity of my novel. Because of my research, LARP: The Battle for Verona is extremely authentic to the hobby.

While the book is certainly one for the geek culture, it’s appealing to a mainstream audience. Who did you have in mind when writing it?

I was really thinking of teens as I wrote it. As a high school teacher, I see the difficulties teens face, mostly due to peer pressure, on a daily basis. I wanted to write a novel for them that addressed their perceived inadequacies, and showed them the futility of buying into the so-called “teen experience.”

What is the message behind LARP: The Battle for Verona?

One of the most beneficial steps anyone can take to long-term success is to maintain your individuality. All the pressures of high school life are temporary. What really matters, long term, is to know yourself, accept yourself, and be yourself.

Your book is set in an island community called Verona off the coast of Washington State, and you’re from a place called Verona, Penn. What characteristics of your hometown made it into your book?

Verona, PA is a very Norman Rockwell town. The population hovers around 5,000, and many people live their entire lives in Verona. For fictional logistical purposes, Verona is an island. But, everything about the fictional Verona mirrors the real Verona. Not to sound cliché, but I wanted to write a love letter to my hometown. It’s a great place.

What are the elements of a great fantasy adventure book?

Outside of the basic elements (hero, villain, insurmountable odds, love interest), there has to be an element of plausibility, however small. The situation in LARP: The Battle for Verona would never happen (hopefully!), but it’s all very well researched, and planned out. It’s that small question of “I wonder if this could really happen” that makes for an addictive read.

Tell us about your career as a high school English teacher and how that has shaped you as a writer.

I absolutely love my career, and consider myself blessed to be a teacher. My students, and their struggles, helped to inspire this novel.

Can we expect anymore LARP novels from you?

Yes. I have an idea for LARP II, as well as a horror/fantasy short story collection, and a modern retelling of a classic novel. Writing isn’t something I do, it’s who I am. I can’t stop.

Sometimes even a geek can become a hero.

Dennis and his friends have been LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) since high school. Now, in his 20s, Dennis is seriously considering giving up LARPing for good. He's tired of dealing with his overzealous friend Mark; he's tired of his older brother Brad's constant put-downs; and he's tired of the fact that he doesn't have a girlfriend.

Check that.

Not a girlfriend, but the girlfriend. Alyssa--the one woman he's been pining over for years.

Dennis and his fellow LARPers have never been considered cool, in their small island community of Verona, located off the coast of Washington State.

But all of that is about to change . . .

While Dennis and his friends are attending a big LARP tournament on the mainland, a rogue terrorist group of Mongolians in medieval garb, led by an American madman, invade Verona and take its citizens hostage--including their families and friends.

When the LARPers find out what's happening in their home-town, they do what any dedicated LARPer would do: they put on their armor, strap on their swords, and fight their way home--LARP-style!

Check out the book on Amazon.