Saturday, November 2, 2019

Reading time!


First of all, for those of you who want updates on the status of "God in the Girl" and the end of The Infinity Trials, please hold tight. I'll have a post detailing the progress of that book soon.

Until then... who loves reading? We all do! So I wanted to take a few moments to rave about the books I've read over the last few months. The first of these I started in April; the last I finished literally last week, in between proof-reading for both myself and others.

And the whole reason I feel the need to do this is because this has been one of the best strings of books I've inhaled in years. So let's go!



(by Sarah Woodbury)

Of course, my reading adventure HAD to start off with the 17th installment of one of my favorite series ever--Sarah Woodbury's "After Cilmeri." I could go into the text and explain what goes on in this fantastic set of novels, but since this is so late in the scope of this epic time-traveling (actually dimension-hopping) adventure, I'll just let you all know that I. Love. Every. Single. Book. It's that good. Wales is that fantastic a setting. Sarah Woodbury is that great of a writer. Start it from the beginning. You'll thank me.





(by Michael Wallace)

Michael Wallace has long been known to be a genre-hopping artist. I've read his dabbles in science fiction (Starship Blackbeard), historical fiction (Wolves of Paris), and cult thriller (The Righteous), and I've enjoyed every one. Which made it an easy decision to jump into this little fantasy trio.

Much to my surprise, it wasn't traditional fantasy at all. What Wallace presents here isn't your boilerplate sword-and-sorcery, but a kind of futurist-technocrat-maybe-post-apocalyptic take on the genre. Inside I found a world that looked a lot like ours after it had "passed on" (as Stephen King would say), filled with futuristic technology being gradually discovered by a society that seems to have regressed to pre-industrial revolution levels. 

The world Wallace creates is vivid, the mysteries are intriguing, and there are clues aplenty as to what might've happened in the past to bring things to where they ended up. This is a fantastic little series that I can't help but recommend.



(by Christina Garner)

Ah, here's some traditional young-adult fare. The typical story of a young girl hilariously named Ember, and her discovery that (of course) she has a secret fate far beyond anything she could've ever imagined.

I kid about this book being "typical," because in truth, it's anything but. That glossy veneer disguises what is actually a quite intimate and harrowing exploration of mental illness and the effects it has on those closest to you. It also includes possibly the most accurate depiction of a bipolar manic episode that I've ever seen put down in writing. The action scenes are very well done, the leads are all likably flawed, and the mythology Garner has created is unlike any I've seen in this type of fiction. Anyone who enjoys urban fantasy should find a lot to like about this book.



(by Cidney Swanson)

Who's up for some hard sci-fi with a fresh young edge?

I loved every little detail in "Saving Mars." From the vivid descriptions of life in a human settlement on Mars to the plucky young heroine who's doing all she can to protect her home planet to the sociopolitical intricacies that led to the Mars colony being abandoned to the super-creative (and super-creepy) depiction of what society on Earth evolved into, there's something in this book for everyone who appreciates speculative fiction. Another hearty recommendation from me here.



(by Melissa F. Miller)

Out of all the books on this list, "Irreparable Harm" was probably the most surprising for me. Not because I didn't think it would be good, but because I don't usually enjoy legal thrillers.

I did enjoy this one. Damn did I enjoy it! Sasha McCandless is one hell of a kick-ass protagonist. She might be only five feet tall and thin as a rail, but Miller does a great job of showing why--and how--she's able to kick the butt of the men who underestimate her. But this isn't an action-adventure story! No, it's actually a pretty effective mystery that also successfully dives into some really interesting nuances of the legal profession. Never again will I be able to hear a cell phone go off while on a plane and not feel a moment of panic.



(by S.M. Reine)

No offense to any of the others on this list, but everything begins and ends with the epic saga of Elise Kavanaugh, monster killer and dedicated yet troubled young woman.

It is truly NOT hyperbole for me to say, in all seriousness, that this is the most I've ever enjoyed reading a book. Though to call it "a book" would be wrong, because "The Descent" is actually an entire collected series, encompassing seven novels and three short stories. When I'd started reading, I'd intended on only reading the first book and then moving on to the next on my list. But SM Reine wouldn't let me. She sucked me in so damn hard that I couldn't help but devour every last goddamn page. I even hemmed and hawed about picking up the next series starring Elise, but eventually succumbed to giving other writers a chance.

This series is everything I've ever wanted. Harrowing. Heartfelt. Violent. Complicated. Mysterious. Intimate. All set within a world of shadows, where messed-up things lurk in the dark corners where most normal people are just too afraid to look. Every character Reine creates is fleshed-out and lovable in their own damaged ways. I was able to connect with almost every single one of them on a personal level, even though they're all so different, which shows some out-of-this-world talent. Even as the tale goes from relatively small--a woman trying to make ends meet in Reno while milking her demon-hunting skills to eek out a living--to unbelievably huge--a literal showdown in heaven--these people you've been following for nearly three-thousand pages retain their grounded natures. Again, everyone, that takes oodles of talent.

So yeah, buy this book. Shoot, buy all of SM Reine's books. I know I'm gonna end up with a rather huge collection of them by the times I'm dead.



(by Krista D. Ball)

And now, some traditional fantasy fare struts into the house!

A little bit of world-building, a little bit of female empowerment, a little bit of prophesy, and a whole lotta elves describe this book pretty accurately. It's a fun start to a journey about a powerful half-elf named Lady Bethany, who has to deal with a long-ass life, training hapless humans soldiers, an upside-down prophesy, an insane sister, and her own mommy issues. A really fun read. So fun, in fact, that I went out and bought the rest of the series before I'd even finished reading the first installment.



(by Nathan Lowell)

I've heard good things about Nathan Lowell for years, but for some reason, I never bought any of his books. After reading "Milk Run," I wish I'd dived in sooner.

This isn't typical science fiction, as Lowell doesn't focus so much on huge, galactic-level stakes. He seems more interested in the mundane, steering us toward a smaller story of a young heroine (sensing a theme here?), fleeing some sort of conspiracy, trying to make a living doing what she does best--helping fly a spaceship. The stakes might be relatively small, but the amount of interesting things that happen in the story aren't. There's intrigue, mystery, and some pretty clever problem solving. Yet another series that I'll be picking up again soon, because I can't wait to see what Lowell has in store next for these interesting characters.



(by Phoenix Sullivan)

Man, do I love myself a good romance. I'd call it a guilty please, but that would suggest there's something to feel guilty for. Well, there isn't.

This is one hell of a book. It's short and to the point, and filled with what feel at first like stock romance caricatures. Until you dive in, that is. Sullivan is able to pain an EXTREMELY vivid portrait of two damaged people finding solace in not only the pleasures of their bodies, but the love of creatures as innocent and empathic as elephants. Nicky and Peter become very real people dealing with very real issues, and watching their bond develop was exhilarating. The sex scenes are wonderfully graphic, full of hot and steamy details, the few action sequences are exciting. A wonderful little book.



(by Kit Rocha)

Another romance! This one with an insane post-apocalyptic-sci-fi twist!

Let's just say this book was a revelation for me. I've never before read a romance novel set in such a detailed, fully-realized, fantastical setting. It was like a dream come true!

I mean, EVERYTHING in this work of art is crafted with so much nuance that it's almost intimidating. The world Rocha has built is obviously lived-in (the fact this series is the second set of books set on this version of Earth proves that), helping to frame everything in a sense of grounded realism despite the fantastical setting. And the characters! They seem so very real-to-life as well, even if they're an emotionally stunted trained warrior straight out of Kurt Russel's "Soldier," a brilliant and overly empathic doctor, and a bunch of biker-punks-slash-holy-warriors. I know, sounds strange, right? It is. But it isn't. Everything just fits together perfectly. Including the long, involved sex scenes around which the plot is constructed. It was a wonderful experience overall. I heartily recommend.




(by David Gaughran)

And finally, we reach the last book populating this leg of my reading journey. Appropriately, it's a tight little novel of historical fiction, which brings everything full circle.

"Liberty Boy" brings us to late-nineteenth century Dublin, where revolution lingers just beneath the surface, a powder keg ready to explode. Gaughran does a bang-up job of showing us what it's like to be a poor local under English rule of Ireland by giving us two distinct point of view characters--down-and-out Jimmy O'Flaherty, who only wishes to make enough money to escape the violence and constant hangings and make it to America, and Kitty Doyle, a virulent young woman whose patriotism for her country and her love of her fellow Dubliners overrides all else.

This novel succeeds in presenting what life in those turbulent times might have been like, sprinkling in little historical facts throughout the narrative that had me jotting stuff down to research later. So very much needed when writing this kind of fiction. But the plot itself is interesting too in how mundane it is. Not much happens. There are no great stakes, other than Jimmy's quest to make money for himself and his mother. But it WORKS. I was enraptured every step of the way, right up until an ending that's far more bitter than sweet, and sets up a second installment that I can't wait to dive into.

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And... that's it! Hope you got something out of this breakdown of some really great little books. And considering I actually had a good amount of fun putting this post together, I just might make this kind of thing a twice-yearly endeavor.

Until the next time!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

JESS, RISING by DM Guay Review


Rating: 5 out of 5

About four months ago, I picked up this little book on a whim, a friend having suggested it, and figured that it’d be a good backup just in case I ran out of material to read and I was away from my precious WiFi hub. It was a young adult fantasy novel, after all, which I’m always game for, so long as it’s decently written. Other than that, I really gave the book no thought. Hell, I never even read the description before buying it.

And then, I forgot all about it.

Then the day came a couple weeks ago where I found myself at work, having just finished a fantasy novel by Michael Wallace that ended on a cliffhanger and salivating to read more. I’d told myself at the time that I’d get the second book in that series as soon as I got home, but until then, since it was still my morning break and there’s no way I could even consider going the rest of the day without reading something, I needed to scour my Kindle library. And there it was, “Jess, Rising”, sitting front-and-center as the only unread material on my device. So I opened the book and dove in, not remembering when I’d gotten it and with no expectations at all as to what might be inside.

By the time I finished my lunch break, I was kicking myself for not starting it sooner.

Wow. Just… wow. This little unassuming book should’ve been anything but. It’s a typical story for the genre—a teen girl in a new town that has a dark past who gradually realizes she has untold of abilities and a greater destiny—but that rote description hides so much narrative depth, so much emotion and personal exploration, that it’s like a sneak attack, creeping up at you when you least expect it and shoving a thick, meaty fist right into your gut.

Not since Wizard and Glass by King and The Cost of Betrayal by Dalglish have I read a work of fiction that so accurately and succinctly depicts what it’s like to lose a loved one, that so perfectly illustrates the empty space where that person used to be and the questions of what life should mean now that they’re gone. And that’s just the starting point in this little gem! DM Guay does just as fantastic of a job of carrying the reader through the healing process, and all the bumps and heartache and doubt that implies. Just as with the best works of fantasy, the supernatural is used as a proxy for real-life pain and torment, as well as a way to bring about an emotional climax that makes sense and allows the story to continue onward without lingering for an extended period on misery; because, let’s face it, if we linger on loss, we stagnate and die too, in certain regards.

That’s not to say this book is nothing but pain and healing. Oh, it’s totally fun and exciting too. Popular tropes are played with, shifted, perverted, with some playing up to expectations and most completely skirting norms and coming out on the other side as something completely different. We get to know Jess, our protagonist, intimately, with all her faults and hang-ups and desires, and through that tight point of view we’re just as much in the dark as she is. In fact, Guay does such a fantastic job of hiding the truth in plain sight that I was legitimately shocked by what happens at the end. She’d turned the tables on me, someone who usually can guess an outcome pretty easily, and did so in a way that was obvious in retrospect. So, so fantastic. I really wish that I could go into more depth here, but doing so would be plenty SPOILERY, and part of the joy in “Jess, Rising” is in the not knowing, so you’re gonna have to take it at that.

This is a novel that has everything I’d ever want in a work of fiction. Super powers? Check. Emotional weight? Check. Young love fraught with angst? Check. Unexpected, graphic violence? Check. An unexpected ending? Super-check. I loved every freaking minute of the experience, so much so that I grabbed the second and third books when I was only halfway through the first. And I plan on spending all of my reading time for the next couple weeks fully immersed in DM Guay’s world, with Jess and her friends, until there’s no more story to tell.

Honestly, I think you should too.



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"Death Devours All Lovely Things" Released, Plus Infinity Trials Updates

For anyone who's just dying to delve deeper into the backstory of The Infinity Trials, I just released a 100-page novella that focuses on the history of Edwin, the grumpy vampire introduced at the end of "Boy in the Mirror," who acts as Jacqueline's guide for the remainder of the series. It's a story that goes from 19th century Ireland to America in the near future—or at least one of the many futures that are possible in the overarching world I've created. 

I'll post the blurb now, but please read on after the buy links for updates on how the final Infinity Trials volume is progressing.

DEATH DEVOURS ALL LOVELY THINGS

Edwin Vyse has never found the balance between being a man and a monster. For all of his unnaturally long vampiric life, he's been alone, never felt the sun on his skin, and been forced to kill to survive. His life, if that's what it can be called, has been a persistent dance along the edges of reality, a fever dream he cannot awaken from.

When fate brings him into the orbit of a beautiful graduate student, however, things begin to change. Maybe love can, indeed, kill the beast. So long as his monstrous nature doesn’t ruin everything.

Robert J. Duperre presents an epic novella of love, loss, and murder, chronicling the life of one of the major supporting characters in his urban fantasy series, The Infinity Trials.


Ebook available now at:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobobooks
Google Play
iTunes (Coming Soon)
Smashwords

Now, on to how the final book in the series is progressing.

Let me just say this—I've had far more difficulty with "God in the Girl" than any other book I've written. Personal tragedies and the subsequent depression have made me put the book on hold for long stretches, which has led to me having to re-familiarize myself with the story whenever I've gone back. This is a complex story, with many moving parts, and tying together all the different plot threads in a satisfactory manner can be mind-numbing at times.

However, it's starting to flow a little more freely now. I'm roughly halfway done, and I'm confident that once the momentum of the end starts rolling, so will the speed (and competence) of my writing. I'm not going to give a time frame for when the book will go live. When it's finished, it's finished, and I refuse to rush it. "God in the Girl" will be the culmination of my vision for an entire shared world, so I have to be careful with it, which includes being diligent with edits so that it flows well and tells you, the reader, everything I wish for you to know. 

So please don't worry. It'll get done, probably more sooner than later.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

After Cilmeri: The Series That Saved My Creativity


In the middle of this past summer, I was in a huge rut. I was depressed, feeling raw and emotional, and I couldn’t write to save my life. When I tried to either read or watch television or movies, I would get this weird sense of anxiety whenever anything dark or violent happened. Which is tough, because most of the stuff I’ve read and watched over the years tended to be, well, dark and violent. And the same goes for my writing. With the weightiness of real life coming down on me, I just didn’t have the stomach for it.

All of which left me longing for some way to escape. I thought of the last time I’d felt like this—way back in 2001—and remembered how, through happenstance, I’d picked up Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” at an airport bookseller. The feel of that book, the romance, and the depth of its world helped distract and heal me during a trying time when I was dealing with not only the fallout of a divorce, but the innate terror that came with the September 11th attacks. I decided, right then and there, that I needed that sort of escape again.

I’ve been lucky enough over the years to be involved in a sort of support group of fellow authors, and among those included in this group is Sarah Woodbury. I’d been aware of her for years—a given as we’re in the same group—but I’d never even given consideration to her work. But seeing as she writes time travel fiction that seemed to me to be quite similar to Outlander, I decided to take a peek at the initial volume in her After Cilmeri series, a perma-free novel called “Daughter of Time.”



To say I was blown away by what I read would be an understatement. I devoured every word of “Daughter of Time”—a book that revolves around a modern young woman named Meg, her accidental transportation to the 13th century, and the beginning of her relationship with Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last prince of Wales—in less than two days. I fell in love with the pacing, the plot, the characters … absolutely everything about the book, I loved. So I immediately bought the next book in the series, “Footsteps in Time,” and away I went.

(Note to add that “Footsteps in Time” is actually the first book in the series; “Daughter of Time” was written as a prequel, after Woodbury’s fans expressed interest in how the whole saga started in the first place. Which makes anyone who comes into the series late the lucky ones, since the character work in “Daughter” is superb, and the information disclosed is quite helpful in understanding the narrative of later books.)

What impressed me most about these tomes was as much what they weren’t as what they were. I was expecting some Gabaldon-type time-travel romance when I first began, but as I read, I discovered that Woodbury’s books are only similar to “Outlander” in the way that the main characters find themselves displaced in time. (Well, actually, in another dimension, but let’s not split hairs.) Sure, the After Cilmeri books have their share of romantic themes, but they’re secondary to what I find to be series’ main points—to teach the readers some little-known facts about medieval Wales, and to act as a sort of exploratory thesis on the nature of leadership, the effectiveness of governing principals, the importance of history, and the virtue of integrity.

Each of these books are told from different viewpoints, alternating first person and third person narration with every other installment, which helps keep the tone fresh and immediate and, well, different. All the characters we meet, both from medieval Wales and the modern world—from Meg and Llywelyn to David and Anna and Callum and Bronwyn and Ieuan and Math and Lily—are complicated, flawed, driven, yet wholly decent people. I had no choice but to root for, and fall in love with, each and every one of them.

There’s an innocence to the narrative that I appreciated wholeheartedly, and a sort of hopeful optimism that some might call na├»ve drips off every word Woodbury writes. In the end, it was this optimism in the face of some rather harrowing events (war is a near constant threat in this series, as are kidnappings, betrayals, assassinations, and familial discord) that caused me to devour all fifteen books of the series in the span of about forty-five days.

To say I adore Woodbury's work would be an understatement. After Cilmeri might be my favorite series ever written, bar none. It’s almost like I got to grow along with the author, as some of the earlier books in the series display the telltale flaws of a young writer, one who grows and improves and perfects her craft with each published work. In the end, I found it to be my own version of literary nirvana—a series of comfortable yet intellectually challenging reads that not only wholly entertained me, but had me analyzing my own craft, wondering what, if anything, I can do to honor these novels, and their message, in my own published works to come.

I can honestly say that Sarah Woodbury and After Cilmeri has rescued my own creativity. While my writing isn’t coming as quickly today as it has in the past, the words are indeed coming, and that is due in large part to what one particular author had to say, and how she chose to say it. So thank you, Sarah, for the wonderfulness you’ve given the world. You have a fan for life in me, and for however long you decide to further explore the lives and adventures of King Daffyd and his merry crew, this one man will be right there to go on the journey with you, wherever you choose to take them, whenever those words arrive.

If you want to explore the awesomeness that is Sarah Woodbury’s works, you can see write-ups on each installment, as well as links to various outlets, at this link: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-after-cilmeri-series/


Go. Read. Enjoy. I did. You will too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Release Day: Lost in the Shadows is now live!



After an extended delay, I'm happy to announce that the third volume in the ongoing saga of Jacqueline Talbot, "Lost in the Shadows," is now live! This has been many months in the making, and is, without a doubt, my favorite book in this series. Alright, enough about me. How about some promotional info?

_______________________

In the shadows, you can even hide from yourself…

When Jacqueline Talbot was in foster care, she often dreamed of being reunited with her father. Now she sees him every day, along with her long-dead mother. Together, they protect a world on the brink of collapse by fighting monsters from neighboring dimensions. Despite this harrowing existence, Jacqueline is actually happy. So happy, in fact, that she doesn’t realize she doesn’t belong here.

Back in the real world, Mitzy Sarin and the Otakus face problems of their own. Not only are Jacqueline’s friends dealing with the fact that she’s up and disappeared, they also seem to each have developed awe-inspiring new talents. They’ll need them too, because in Jacqueline’s absence, reality is starting to fracture. More and more creatures are slipping through the cracks. Natural disasters abound.

The only way to set the world right again is to get Jacqueline back home. But her friends need to act quickly, because the Nightwatch aren’t the only ones looking for her.

Now available at most outlets:

Monday, September 25, 2017

REVIEW: Grim (Reaper's Redemption Book 1)

Rating: 5 out of 5

A while back, I reviewed a fascinating literary novel titled “Anomaly” that chronicled a few days in the life of a tortured gender-fluid character named J. The book completely surprised me, and I fell in love with it. (Unfortunately, that particular title is no longer in print, so the world has lost out on reading it…for now.) So when I found out that the author of that little gem, one Thea Atkinson, had pivoted her peculiar talents toward Urban Fantasy, I just HAD to pick up a copy of “Grim” and see for myself how someone with a unique voice such as hers would tackle the genre.

And let me tell you, she tackled it perfectly.

“Grim” is a gem of a book. It is the story of Ayla, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood whose life has been anything but easy. As a child of the foster care system, she has all the insecurities and hang-ups of someone who’s shuffled from home to home. Her distrust lingers even now that she’s found relative safety living with her grandfather in the town of Dyre (great naming there). She’s a contradiction, as most real people are—flawed yet idealistic, fragile yet brimming with inner strength.

Atkinson doesn’t waste time, as the story starts with a bang, an encounter with a strange, tattooed killer in an old gothic church. It is this initial confrontation, and all the horror that goes with it, that begins a breakneck two days for our young, ornery heroine. There are secrets revealed almost immediately, both supernatural and otherwise. The author sure knows how to frame a fight scene, and the action is excellently paced. When reading this book, there really is not time to stop and catch your breath, which only adds to the urgency of the tale.

As with “Anomaly,” Atkinson shows off her biggest talent: the depth of her characters. The story is told through Ayla’s eyes, so obviously she is very well developed, but the rest of the cast, from her grandfather, to Callum the young and seemingly conflicted firefighter, to Ayla’s witchy friend Sarah, leap of the page in real-time. All three of them are complex individuals disguised as genre tropes, which makes them at once relatable and utterly mysterious.

And oh, the mysteries! One of the areas that I’ve seen most authors struggle with when creating any fantasy world is makeup and definition of the world itself. World-building, if you will. Here, Atkinson shows an almost saintly amount of patience. Even though we learn almost immediately of what Ayla’s big secret is, the functionality around that secret, the rules of engagement, and the underlying mythology are doles out bits and pieces at a time, sprinkled here and there throughout the narrative, slowly building the universe like a puzzle.

Being the first book in a series, of course that puzzle isn’t completed by the time the last chapter comes to a close. But what’s revealed up until that point is more than enough to have the reader pining to get to the next book. Which, really, is what the opening volume of a series is all about.


So yes, “Grim” is a great little book, and way more than it seems at first blush. The earnestness that drips like viscera just below the genus of the common is more than enough to make me honestly say, “More, please, and right freaking now.”

Purchase "Grim" at the following outlets:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Google Play

Monday, May 8, 2017

NEW BOOK RELEASE: INFINITY TRIALS #2

It's finally here. The 2nd book in the ongoing story of Jacqueline Talbot, "Wolves at the Door," is now available across most platforms. Here's a little about the book:

WOLVES AT THE DOOR

Sometimes, a girl just wants to be a girl...

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, the other secrets regarding Jacqueline Talbot’s past—and future—begin to come clear. It’s a lot for a sixteen-year-old girl to deal with, especially when she’s told that the fate of the world rests on her shoulders. 

Jacqueline now must prepare herself to take on the rest of the Trials; the only problem is, no one’s really sure what they are. Not even her aunt, who seems to know a little too much about everything. 

At least she has her support system to help her through it all. But that system is as fragile as everything else in Jacqueline’s troubled life. Just one small misstep and it could all be over…for everyone.



Purchase now at the following outlets:

Amazon (Ebook)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Google Play

iTunes coming soon!