Book Spotlight: Steel Hand, Cold Heart

I’m so excited to announce an amazing giveaway event in honor of Steel Hand, Cold Heart by Rachel Menard! Read on for book details, an excerpt and a link to the event!

STEEL_HAND_COVER_w_AwardSteel Hand, Cold Heart

Publication Date: July 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy/ Adventure/ Vikings

On the island of Helvar, women rule. Sixteen-year-old Carina has trained for most of her life to belong to the coveted Daughters of Hel, the steel-handed Viking warriors who provide souls to the Death Goddess in exchange for the prosperity of their island. Gaining her place hasn’t been easy. She was not borne of the island, but another spoil from another raid, raised by the island Chieftain. There are many who would see her fail, and on her first raid, she does. She doesn’t kill a priestess she should have.

Carina needs to prove her worth or risk losing her place. Before she can, her arch-nemesis drugs her wine and sends her off the isle as a captive of three foreign boys. But what is Carina’s greatest misfortune may turn out to be her greatest gift. The young men are taking her to the jewel of the Southern Isles – Fortis Venitis, a place no other Daughter of Hel can venture. Carina can place Hel’s claims on the Southern isle and return to Helvar with the spoils, a victor.

However there are many obstacles to pass before she reaches her goal. Like her rune stone that everyone keeps trying to steal, the mismatched pirates from a country that no longer exists, and the priest with his poison that melts flesh from bones. But the most dangerous obstacle of all are the odd feelings she’s developing for her victims, especially the knife-thieving captain Nik. That could make it difficult for her to kill him in the end.

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

They called me Carina the Unstoppable. No, the name did not render men to terror like Merciless Merle, nor did it inspire awe like Dagna the Destroyer, or command attention like Odda Ironfist. But the moniker was mine. I earned it for the many times I had been knocked flat on the training grounds or limped on bleeding limbs to finish a fight. It was how I earned my place as one of Hel’s Daughters, the Hand of Death Herself.

I leaned over the rails of our longboat, Jörmungandr, aptly named because the figurehead was carved in the image of the giant sea serpent, wriggling its way through the water east toward Frisia. A strong wind held our mainsail, and we bobbed back and forth on gentle waves. These smooth waters were a blessing from the sea giant, Aegir. He approved of our quest, speeding us along our last raid of the season, the last offering to Hel before the long winter.

This was the Daughters’ last raid of the season but my first. I could hardly contain my excitement. I wanted to be there already, to see the villagers’ faces when we arrived on their shore in droves. When we offered their blood to the Goddess Hel.

I curled my steel fingers into a fist. On the eve of my initiation, Thora warned me attaching my steel hand would hurt. Her exact words were, “It feels like cutting your fingers off one by one and pissing in the wound.” Vidar warmed the steel gauntlet in the coals until it glowed sunset red, and I grit my teeth as he slid the molten metal over my fingers. The steel hand burned through flesh and muscle until the metal touched bone. My eyes had watered. A violent scream had gathered in my chest.

I held it back. I didn’t have the luxury of showing weakness, and once the hand was seared to my fingers, I belonged to Hel. She who bears the steel hand has the Goddess’s blessing to take life. That was three months ago. It took that long for my hand to heal, to become useful again

Amazon

Giveaway Details

Goodreads Giveaway Event!

Set sail for adventure, romance and cross-dressing on an epic Viking-inspired journey! 

Enter for a chance to win 1 of 50 digital Kindle copes of STEEL HAND, COLD HEART, Grand Prize Winner of the 7th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards! Winners will be selected at random, and their prize will be sent directly to their Kindle device. Giveaway is open from May 15, 2020 through June 14, 2020.

About the Author

Rachel_Menard

Rachel Menard earned her degree in marketing from ASU, during which time her work was featured in the university paper and her own, self-published punk zine, Chelsea. Her short fiction has been featured in the New England Speculative Writers’ Anthology, The Final Summons and on Cast of Wonders. Most recently, her self-published YA fantasy novel won the Grand Prize in the 7th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book awards. For more of her writings and ramblings, visit http://www.rachelmenard.com.\

Rachel Menard | Twitter | Instagram 

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Book Spotlight: After Darkness

I’m thrilled to share the first of an exciting new dystopian duology by J.F. Johns, called After Darkness!

Read on for an exclusive excerpt, book details, and a chance to win a print copy of Eternal Darkness, the first book in her exciting dystiopian series of the same name!

After Darkness - J.F. Johns (ebook)

After Darkness (Book One)

Publication Date: April 14th, 2020

Blurb:

Year 2160

RULE #.1

Humans AND Cyborgs are prohibited from communicating in any shape or form with each other.

RULE #.2

Curfew is from 12 p.m until 7.30 a.m
Applicable to ALL citizens, humans AND cyborgs.

RULE #.3

All propaganda against the government, written or verbal is a crime.

RULE #.4

All the above laws if broken are punishable by death.

WELCOME TO THE NATION

Are you ready?

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Excerpt

‘My name is Terra Underwood, by the way.’

‘Didn’t ask.’

‘I know, thought you should know anyway.’

She heard him sigh.

‘I’m Kalem.’ A few seconds passed and then, ‘Kalem Akuma.’

‘Akuma? Seriously?’

‘It means demon.’

She couldn’t help but think it was rather fitting.

‘Well, Underwood means ‘wood that is under.’ What exactly it’s under we’ll never know.’

‘Is that meant to be a joke?’

‘Everything I say is meant as a joke.’

She could almost hear him smile, and that brought her own lips to twist upwards. She closed her eyes, feeling suddenly at ease and comfortable.

‘Good night, wood that is under.’

Terra’s smile deepened.

‘Good nigh, demon.’

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon ES

About the Author

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J.F.Johns is 27 years old and was born and raised in Spain. She studied English Literature and Creative Writing at ARU in Cambridge, UK.

She won the Indie Book Awards 2017 for best book written by an author under the age of 25, and was a finalist for best book cover with her novel Eternal Darkness.
She’s an animal lover, and spends her free time playing with her adopted dog and rescued cat, drinking too much coffee and posting book photos on her Instagram.
She believes in the art of dramatic sighing and eye rolling. She works as a ninja, but has been told several times that she’s not very good at her job.

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

Giveaway: For a chance to win a paperback copy of Eternal Darkness by J.F. Johns, click the link below!

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Eternal Darkness

The world is divided between humans and cyborgs.
Scarlet Lock is neither.
She is a soldier created to kill on command. But her memory has been erased and when she awakens in a government facility she soon discovers that this new world is a dangerous place, full of government secrets and cruel experiments performed in the name of progress.
With the help of a group of cyborgs, Scarlet will fight to uncover the truth and transform the future of the new world she now lives in.
Eternal Darkness is full of suspense, action and romance and will make readers question what it means to be human.

AfterDarkness

Blog Tour Schedule

May 25th

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com

Jennifer Mitchell, Bibliolater (Review) https://www.jennifermitchellbooks.com

Vick’s Bookish Writing (Review) https://vicksblogcom.home.blog/

May 26th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

One Book More (Review) https://onebookmore.com/

Lecari’s Live Journal (Review) http://www.lecari.co.uk/

Rambling Mads (Review) http://ramblingmads.com

Scarlett Readz & Runz (Review) https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/

May 27th

I Smell Sheep (Spotlight) http://www.ismellsheep.com/

Back Shelf Books (Review) https://backshelfbooks.com/

An Ocean a Glimmer (Review) http://anoceanglimmer.wordpress.com

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Rea’s Reads (Review) https://reasreads.wordpress.com/

May 28th

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Interview) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Cup of Toast (Review) https://cupoftoast.co.uk

May 29th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Misty’s Book Space (Review) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

Book Reviews by Satabdi (Review) http://satabdimukherjee.wordpress.com

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Book Review: Encounter at Cloud Ranch

Our external reviewer has launched his own website!! You can find him over at This & That Books but luckily he is still doing some reviews for us on the side. This one was called The Legend of the Clouds: Encounter at Cloud Ranch by Robert James Connors.

clouds cover

Synopsis: When Jason Cloud finds a bizarrely-fanged skull and butchered cattle on his father’s Arizona ranch, it leads him into an encounter with a dangerous alien species. Spread at the foot of the spectacular cliffs of northern Arizona, the C9 Ranch is home to Jason, his widower father Tom, and two trusted hands, but Jason turns first to his university professor for help.

An enjoyable book for a couple of reasons. First, within a page or two there’s a mystery that needs unraveling. It draws you in. If you have not read the book preview then you won’t be sure where the story is leading, which is part of the appeal.

Secondly, the book takes place in northern Arizona (I had pegged it as south-west Utah based on the rock and plant descriptions so I was close). If you’ve ever been to those areas or watched westerns, you’ll find the scenic descriptions familiar. Connors’ descriptions make the place come to life. I had one of those slight shock moments when I looked up from the book and saw northern trees devoid of leaves instead of slick rock vistas that were in the book. It’s nice when a book is written well enough to pull you into its world so that you experience a slight dislocation when you look around. Incidentally, there’s a horse named Curly—which made me think of Curly from City Slickers (Billy Crystal, Jack Palance). The scenery descriptions in the book match the scenery of that movie.

The book is plot-driven rather than character driven. In that way it’s a bit like the short Louis L’Amour books where the lack of character development is compensated for by the plot, the characters as they are, and the dialogue. Connors does a good job of driving the plot and making likable characters, even the side characters.

There are a couple of love story interests that are predictable and seem a bit forced. For example, a healthy 30-something year old was found dead near his barn. It was never clear what killed him, they didn’t even know why he died (they’re not saying it was aliens, but … ). His death, though, did then allow his widow to become a love interest for another character. After the funeral, no-one ever wondered how he died even though near the end of the book answers might have been available.

im-not-saying-it-was-aliens-but-it-was-aliens-13879118

The second love interest had a forced quality to it as well. A professor had been to the ranch to investigate the bizarre cattle killings, and while on-site with her student their truck was sliced by something that could cut metal easily. Whatever it was had tracked them, showed it was intelligent and had essentially left a “go away” message. But the following winter she returned to the ranch with her kids because the creature hadn’t made itself known all summer. The strange intelligent beast could cut a cow clean in half and walk off with the meat; it could carve metal like it was toffee; it was smart and hostile. You would not be bringing your kids to a place where something so unnatural was living even if it hadn’t been seen for five years. However, both the love plot and the main plot required she and her kids be there.

Then there was an event that really has nothing to do with the plot even though there was an “I’ll be back to deal with you” type situation. That never happened, and the event was never mentioned again. Cut that section out of the book and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference to the story.

Those are more nit-picking things though. The book was a good read. It seems Connors was inspired by some of the petroglyph rock art that show tall alien-like creatures, such as petroglyphs found in Sego Canyon. I wish he’d developed that aspect of the story a bit further as the petroglyphs and rock art are rich in history and culture.

Overall, another good read that you can easily finish in an evening.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in an ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.



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Book Spotlight: Return Addresses

Michael A. McLellan has a new book out in the world! Read on for an exclusive except and a fantastic giveaway — A $20 Amazon gift card, and a copy of Return Addresses!

Psst, bloggers and book reviewers! There is also going to be a blog tour June 10th to the 26th, if you’re interested! Visit R&R Book Tours for more info!

New Final FINAL 4Return Addresses

Publication Date: April 13, 2020

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Mountain Press

“This ain’t your world. You don’t have any friends out here. Not real ones. No one out here cares about nothin’ but where their next drink or fix is comin’ from. That, or they were born too messed up in the head to even understand what friendship is. Remember that. You can’t trust anybody. You can’t rely on no one but yourself.”

Fourteen-year-old Sean Pennington never thought he’d find himself riding on an open train car in the middle of the night. He never thought he’d find himself alone. He never thought he’d be running for his life.

In the spring of 2015 Sean Pennington’s world of comfort and privilege is shattered and he becomes a ward of the state. Thrust into a broken foster care system, he discovers the harsh realities of orphanhood. Lonely, confused, and tormented by his peers, he runs away, intending to locate his only living relative; a grandfather he’s never met, who his only connection with is a return address on a crumpled envelope. Enter Andrea, a modern day hobo Sean meets at a California homeless encampment. Andrea travels the country by rail, stowing away on shipping container cars with other transients calling themselves traveling kids. Though battling her own demons, road-savvy Andrea promises to help Sean on his quest, but can she protect him from the unpredictable and often violent world she lives in?

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Excerpt

He saw the tents and the plastic tarp lean-tos too late. He was already underneath the highway overpass. The waning daylight barely penetrated the area, and the makeshift shelters were tucked back away from the road, in the shadows. If he’d seen them, he would have stopped and backtracked to the frontage road he’d passed a few hundred yards back. Breathing heavily, he slowed to a walk and kept his eyes forward.

“Hey, dude, what are you running for?” Came a voice from his left.

He turned toward the voice. Two men were walking toward him from the group of haphazardly placed shelters about twenty feet from the sidewalk. Gauging that he was less than halfway through, he turned around and started back the way he’d come. The men picked up their pace to a jog and cut him off. They stood on the sidewalk in his path. Sean stopped short of them and they casually walked forward, closing the distance. He was more afraid than he’d ever been in his life. His legs were shaking and he felt sick to his stomach. One of the men was old and had long, matted gray hair that hung to his chest in clumps. His clothes were tattered and filthy. The other was younger, maybe thirty. He was wearing a red hoodie and gray sweat pants that were so dirty they’d turned black in places. He had the hood up and masses of brown dreadlocks spilled out of the sides. The smell of the two men reminded Sean of spoiled food and urine.

“What are you running for, kid?” the older man repeated.

Sean took a step back. “I…I must have gone the wrong way.”

“The wrong way? Ha! You got that right. This is the wrongest way you could go.” The man turned and glanced in the direction Sean had came from. “You got anyone with you?”

Now Available on Amazon!

About the Author

Mike Author 1

Michael’s love of books began with Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle when he was seven-years-old. Later influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, James Baldwin, and Cormac McCarthy, Michael developed his style of storytelling. A self-proclaimed blue-collar writer, he draws on his experiences and observations to bring relevant and compelling topics to life.

Michael lives in Northern California and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found wandering around the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.

His body of work includes the 2014 novel After and Again, the 2015 novel American Flowers, and the 2017 novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, as well as various shorts and essays.

Michael McLellan | GoodreadsTwitter

Giveaway: 1st prize is a $20 Amazon gift card and a digital copy of Return Addresses. 2nd prize is a digital copy of the book! The giveaway will run from today to May 21st! Click the link below to enter!

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Book Review: The Wicked King

It’s time! I have finally completed the 2nd book in the Cruel Prince trilogy and I was nervous to review it because I wasn’t sure if it would live up to the hype. But I am happy to say that it did and I really enjoyed The Wicked King by Holly Black.

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Synopsis: After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

This series started off so strong and just kept up the pace in this thrilling next installment in the series. I was so excited to get back into this world and explore more of it. I had been missing all of these characters and their mischievous intentions for one another.

Jude is always thinking like 4 steps ahead and planning out everything so that it always goes right and I loved being behind the scenes and seeing how she did this. And to be fair, she really has to stay on her toes in the world of fae because everyone is looking to deceive you for their own personal gain.

There was a certain reveal in this one that broke my heart and I was sad by it but in no way did it hinder my experience of the book. If anything, it added to it. The bonds that were built between characters were definitely tested in ways they couldn’t even prepare for and it was glorious!

We got to see more about a lot of the side characters in this plot which was awesome since they were introduced in the first book but not built upon as much.

I am very excited to see how Holly Black concludes this series. It has been a non-stop thrill ride for me and there had been so much build up for a potentially big finale. I really hope that it keeps me impressed by the end.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book because I wanted to and in no way was compensated for this review.



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I did the Ride or Die Book Tag and talked about some great books in this one! Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Blood Within The Stone

Chris has been reading more and he even made his own book blog (This & That Reviews)! But today, he did a review for The Blood Within the Stone by T.R. Thompson so check out his review below!

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Synopsis: A shadow is spreading across the land. Fear will be your downfall.

When the Prefects of Redmondis discover that their quick minds and quicker fingers hide secret potential, young thieves Wilt and Higgs find themselves unwilling recruits. Wilt’s ability to sink into others’ thoughts, knowing what action they will take before they do, is both a prized and dangerous gift.

The Nine Sisters of Redmondis have sensed a growing threat, and search for the one who can control the power of the blood within the stone. But even their sinister plots are nothing compared to the force that controls them.

As Wilt and Higgs rally their newfound weapons, they discover that the threat to their lives, and their reality, is much greater than they realise.

This was an entertaining non-stop read. From a technical writing perspective, the words and sentences flowed to mirror the storyline. Action scenes had short quick sentences; scenes that built suspense had the longer formative sentences. It was done well enough to bring the reader along with it.

The story itself had a few unexpected turns, which I wasn’t sure would happen because the start will be familiar to readers of fantasy literature. It was the story of a street thief who having latent magical abilities or talents rose up from their humble beginnings to positions of great influence and/or power (a la Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, Trudi Canavan, Raymond Feist).

But the storyline doesn’t always go where you think. I enjoyed the unexpected turns the book took. The ending itself was different from most works and rather clever. It left me wanting to read the second book in the series. Based on the epilogue I think the second volume will be even better than the first—and the first book is good especially since this is Thompson’s first book. I thought he’d had more publishing experience. Well done.

There were a few minor things that had me pause. Some times things happen that aren’t quite explained properly. I’m not sure what an initiate did to deserve death except perhaps relax.

And in one instance an event happened that didn’t seem to have much bearing on anything. In this case, the heroes had to get past some patrolling dog-former-human creatures. One character suggests we can easily get rid of these vermin. A kinder hearted character says there is a simpler way. He draws a symbol in the air, it attracts one dog, they then kill it and proceed on their way. How that helps them get past the rest of the dog-creatures isn’t explained. The only thing it accomplished was the heroes vowed to make the villain pay for his evil work, which is what they were on their way to do when they had to hide from the dog-creature patrols. I didn’t see any point in that part.

Incidentally, the hero is an expert in the use of a sling. It featured in the beginning to help him get noticed for his rise up the ranks, but after that, the skill wasn’t needed. It would be too much of a trope to have him rescue himself and his companions near the end with surprise sling skills. Too predictable as you see that trope in movies; e.g., if the first ten minutes of a film shows a character throwing knives at fencepost targets you know in the last ten minutes of the film there will be a surprised bad guy looking at a surprise knife in his chest. Still, it appears the character doesn’t even practice anymore, which in real life at least is unusual as you want to maintain your skill level after working so hard to attain it.

That last part isn’t a criticism though, just an observation. The book was a good read, it had unexpected twists in the plot, and leaves you wanting more. It was an enjoyable way to pass a Monday evening.

Book Rating: 4/5 

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in an ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.


Check out Sean Carlson’s brand new novel called Road To Emmaus: The New Deal which is available now on Amazon! Here is a synopsis of the book: In the midst of the Great Depression, newly elected US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt offers a new deal for the American people. An advisory team, coined the ‘brains trust’ build the foundation of his government’s policies which will impact American families for generations to come. But can human intervention and a new alignment of ‘truths’ resurrect a shared hope powerful enough to save a nation from itself?The dusty road of human history cuts through the heart of every soul. Our search for truth is not easy travel as the deadly allures of myth and deceit call us by name, presiding behind altars of ruin. The illusion is set. And lost in the forgotten timelines of a world under seige, an ancient promise remains.All of recorded history is an understanding of the pieces of ourselves that have come before and the road that remains. This journey is both and ’embarking on’ and a ‘leaving of.’The history of yourself precedes you – going back to the beginning. No piece of history in the cosmos or on earth is exclusive of you. From an exiled apostle imprisoned in the heart of the Roman Empire to Cambodia’s killing fields and South America’s secret horrors. You wear the scars. From a litany of underground movements and failed revolutions, to the fabled utopian kingdom of Camelot, the claim for truth has worn many faces.The long cold war between the icy dominion of Kalashnikov and a succession of presiders struggling to raise the chalice to the parched lips of the world continues. The battle remains yours to fight.You were a part of the old deal and are an even bigger part of the new deal. The dead hand of the past is no longer the end of us. Our history is not confined to the past nor is it bound to the laws of earthly dimension. It is as timeless and free as you. The road awaits…

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You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/0995270295/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_ixPHEb9GMG63M



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I’m a little late getting to my April Wrap Up but here it is! The Magical Readathon was a lot of fun and these are all the books I read for it. Let me know if you have read any of them and what you thought! Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: Double Barrel Horror

Welcome to the blog tour for Double Barrel Horror Volume #3, a collection of thrills and chills by six amazing authors! Hold onto your pants folks!

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Double Barrel (Volume 3)

Publication Date: March 22nd, 2020

Genre: Anthology/ Horror/ Suspense

Brace yourself for another two-barrel blast of unrelenting horror and suspense. Volume 3 of the ‘Double Barrel Horror’ anthology series delivers two chilling tales from each of six talented authors for a 12-story onslaught that will blow you out of your sneakers. This time around, your fate lies in the hands of Christine Morgan, Mark Matthews, Theresa Braun, Calvin Demmer, Glenn Rolfe, and Robert Essig.

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Excerpt

Highway Hunger by Calvin Demmer

It couldn’t be alive?

It was.

Dudley Ellington couldn’t see the animal’s face, but based on the tufts of bloody fur, he thought it might be a rat or a squirrel. He stepped closer, and the creature’s legs shook as if it were attempting to kick-start its body back to life.

Its movements ceased.

Dudley looked around, and all he saw was the long, empty stretch of highway. Why was there never a good stick lying around when you needed one? He tapped his boot on the animal, hoping for a response. He got nothing. Were his eyes playing tricks? He thought its legs moved a moment ago.

He tapped the animal again.

This time, one of its arms stretched out and then down, as if it were trying to push the button to answer a question on a game show. Dudley stepped back—not out of fear, as he assured himself, but to get a better view.

The paw jiggled.

“Yo, Felipe. Come check this out.” Dudley ran his hand over his slicked-back hair. He looked to the white pickup when he got no reply from his coworker.

Felipe sat in the front seat with his orange helmet covering his eyes.

“Felipe, wake up.”

Felipe groaned, slowly pushing open the driver-side door. “What’s it now, Dud? I told you we can always take an extra thirty minutes for lunch. I was just about to get some rest. No one will give a shit.”

“There’s something on the road. I was gonna scoop it up, but it must be alive.”

Felipe’s eyes widened. He climbed out of the vehicle and marched to Dudley.

“Get back,” he said as he passed Dudley.

Dudley did as instructed, oddly reassured by the sudden authority in his coworker’s voice. Felipe would surely help the critter, maybe take it somewhere for injured animals. He was still new to the job and wasn’t sure of the correct protocol.

Felipe hovered over the creature. “It’s a squirrel. At least, it was. Half its body has been smashed.”

“Damn.”

“Yeah, it’s a bummer for sure. But there’s nothing we can do. Best leave it be and let it die in peace.”

“Leave it be? It’s in pain.”

“That’s right. We leave it. It’s not dead, and we only collect the dead.”

Dudley stepped forward. “What about the injured animals? Where do you take them?”

“Injured animals.” Felipe scoffed, staring at the road. “Dud. Now isn’t the time for this. Let it go.”

The squirrel twitched, and Dudley imagined it hearing them talk about how they would simply desert it. That was nonsense, of course, as squirrels couldn’t understand humans, but still, he couldn’t allow it to suffer. He would have to put it out of its misery.

Dudley raised his boot, telling himself this was the most merciful thing he could do.

“No!” Felipe shouted, tackling him to the ground.

“What the fuck, man?” Dudley pushed Felipe off before getting to his feet and dusting his pants, not sure how much good it would do as they already had a stain or two from the takeaway burger he’d devoured for lunch. “Why would—”

“Dud. You need to listen to me.” Felipe glanced around. “We need to get going. I can explain everything once we’re on the move.”

Amazon

DoubleBarrel

Blog Tour Schedule

May 11th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Kim Knight (Spotlight) http://kimknightauthor.wordpress.com

Literary Dust (Review) https://literarydust.wordpress.com/

May 12th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

The Scary Reviews (Review) https://thescaryreviews.com

Cats Luv Coffee (Spotlight) https://catsluvcoffeez.blogspot.com

May 13th

Entertainingly Nerdy (Spotlight) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com

The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

May 14th

Dark Whimsical Art (Spotlight) https://www.darkwhimsicalart.com/blogs/news

Didi Oviatt (Review) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Books Teacup & Reviews (Spotlight) https://booksteacupnreviews.wordpress.com/

May 15th

I Smell Sheep (Spotlight) http://www.ismellsheep.com/

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Review) www.bansheeirishhorrorblog.com

Tranquil Dreams (Review) https://klling.wordpress.com/

Authors:

Matthew Weber 

Christine Morgan

Mark Matthews 

Theresa Braun 

Calvin Demmer

Glenn Rolfe

Robert Essig 

Blog Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours


Check out Sean Carlson’s brand new novel called Road To Emmaus: The New Deal which is available now on Amazon! Here is a synopsis of the book: In the midst of the Great Depression, newly elected US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt offers a new deal for the American people. An advisory team, coined the ‘brains trust’ build the foundation of his government’s policies which will impact American families for generations to come. But can human intervention and a new alignment of ‘truths’ resurrect a shared hope powerful enough to save a nation from itself?The dusty road of human history cuts through the heart of every soul. Our search for truth is not easy travel as the deadly allures of myth and deceit call us by name, presiding behind altars of ruin. The illusion is set. And lost in the forgotten timelines of a world under seige, an ancient promise remains.All of recorded history is an understanding of the pieces of ourselves that have come before and the road that remains. This journey is both and ’embarking on’ and a ‘leaving of.’The history of yourself precedes you – going back to the beginning. No piece of history in the cosmos or on earth is exclusive of you. From an exiled apostle imprisoned in the heart of the Roman Empire to Cambodia’s killing fields and South America’s secret horrors. You wear the scars. From a litany of underground movements and failed revolutions, to the fabled utopian kingdom of Camelot, the claim for truth has worn many faces.The long cold war between the icy dominion of Kalashnikov and a succession of presiders struggling to raise the chalice to the parched lips of the world continues. The battle remains yours to fight.You were a part of the old deal and are an even bigger part of the new deal. The dead hand of the past is no longer the end of us. Our history is not confined to the past nor is it bound to the laws of earthly dimension. It is as timeless and free as you. The road awaits…

roadtoemmaus-SC-3D

You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/0995270295/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_ixPHEb9GMG63M



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

I’m a little late getting to my April Wrap Up but here it is! The Magical Readathon was a lot of fun and these are all the books I read for it. Let me know if you have read any of them and what you thought! Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: Of Steel & Steam

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science and fantasy.
With stories from:
Margo Bond Collins
J. A. Cummings
R.M. Garino
C.A. King
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Klarissa King
M. R. Graham
Bokerah Brumley
Mary Kit Caelsto
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gone forever? Then order this limited-edition collection of exclusive
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Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive content and a giveaway!
$25 Amazon

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Check out Sean Carlson’s brand new novel called Road To Emmaus: The New Deal which is available now on Amazon!

Here is a synopsis of the book: In the midst of the Great Depression, newly elected US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt offers a new deal for the American people. An advisory team, coined the ‘brains trust’ build the foundation of his government’s policies which will impact American families for generations to come. But can human intervention and a new alignment of ‘truths’ resurrect a shared hope powerful enough to save a nation from itself?The dusty road of human history cuts through the heart of every soul. Our search for truth is not easy travel as the deadly allures of myth and deceit call us by name, presiding behind altars of ruin. The illusion is set. And lost in the forgotten timelines of a world under seige, an ancient promise remains.All of recorded history is an understanding of the pieces of ourselves that have come before and the road that remains. This journey is both and ’embarking on’ and a ‘leaving of.’The history of yourself precedes you – going back to the beginning. No piece of history in the cosmos or on earth is exclusive of you. From an exiled apostle imprisoned in the heart of the Roman Empire to Cambodia’s killing fields and South America’s secret horrors. You wear the scars. From a litany of underground movements and failed revolutions, to the fabled utopian kingdom of Camelot, the claim for truth has worn many faces.The long cold war between the icy dominion of Kalashnikov and a succession of presiders struggling to raise the chalice to the parched lips of the world continues. The battle remains yours to fight.You were a part of the old deal and are an even bigger part of the new deal. The dead hand of the past is no longer the end of us. Our history is not confined to the past nor is it bound to the laws of earthly dimension. It is as timeless and free as you. The road awaits…

roadtoemmaus-SC-3D

You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/0995270295/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_ixPHEb9GMG63M



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

Anyone miss concerts? I know it has been a while since I have been to one and miss the sound of live music. Here is a video of me using concert prompts to talk about some books! Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Book of Songs

Our digital bookshelf is getting a lot smaller as we read all these books on our ebook TBR. Chris has sent in another review for a book called The Book of Songs by Louice Svedin.

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Synopsis: Anne has led a privileged life: she is a weaver, a magic user, in a world ruled by the extraordinary. Yet one day it all changes. She is deemed too powerful by the aristocracy and is sent to a monastery for life. To avoid this fate she embarks on a journey, driven by a prophecy she doesn’t want to fulfill. But will she have any choice in the end?

Anne is also a thoroughly unlikable character with the temperament, emotional maturity and intelligence of an impulsive spoiled 13-year old. Maybe by book’s end she matures, but once I hit the 50% mark in the book I’d had enough.

This book has numerous problems. It reads like it was written by a 14-year old. It still has elements of the way a child tells a tale. This happened. Then this. Then that went away. Then this happened. Then something magic. And a big bird appeared. It’s like reading a description of a child’s dream. Events sometimes don’t make sense, they jump around.

Some of the issues are due to translating from Swedish to English. Characters groan in agony, except they’re not in any pain. Another one fainted with a disdained groan, but it was exhaustion, or possibly disappointment, not disdain. Other characters leer, but context indicates they’re not leering. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means” (easy cultural reference).

Then there were the adverbs. A short cut to spotting adverbs is that many end in “-ly”. We have “He sighed dramatically”, “smiled sardonically”, “hissed condescendingly”, “said tiredly”, “said annoyedly”. Adverbs were legion enough to drown a herd of pigs (difficult cultural reference). Stephen King, in his excellent readable book On Writing, says this about adverbs in dialogue:

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs,… they’re like dandelions. If you have one in your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.” ….

Attribution verbs are also many: “Anne scoffed in annoyance”, “growled in frustration”, “growled in anger”, “groaned in agony”. King covers that too.

Some writers try to evade the no-adverb rule by shooting the attribution verb full of steroids. The result is familiar to any reader of pulp fiction or paperback originals:”

 “Put the gun down, Utterson!” Jekyll grated.

“Never stop kissing me!” Shayna gasped.

“You damned tease!” Bill jerked out.

 The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said.

Not that King always took his own advice, but before you break the rules you first have to know them.

However, the story itself fails in any language. There doesn’t seem to be any consistent rules for how the magic works. If moving the plot forward requires magic then there’s magic. If it requires no magic then there’s no magic, even though there’s no reason why magic couldn’t be used. Deus ex Machina.

Too many events are unbelievable even in a world where magic exists. Anne escapes by impulsively (ach, an adverb!) stepping out of a flying airplane, telepathically contacts a giant bird (she’s not telepathic, but the bird is—not that we even know about the bird yet) for a rescue. It catches her on its back before she hits the ground. There was no reason for the bird to be anywhere near the airplane much less keep up with it. The most probable outcome of Anne’s impulsive act is her eyes widen greatly as she growls in frustration just before she makes a new hole in the forest floor.

Why not call for the bird telepathically while still inside the plane; if it’s close (highly unlikely) let it get into position, and then Anne could step out. That way the poor bird doesn’t need to catch Anne at the last second of a 9.81 m/s2 free-fall (that’s 32 feet/s2 in antediluvian units) where Anne’s kinetic energy transforms them both into a jellied mess and an even bigger hole in the forest floor.

It seems each new page brings a myriad of questions and story problems. In the first page Anne disarms three weavers who attacked her (no explanation as to why or even how they attacked) by slowly taking out her flute and capturing them in a spell. They helpfully stand in place and let her.

Yet later in the book she tries to quickly grab her flute during a battle, but it is knocked out of her hands and she is captured.

Why didn’t the weavers tackle her while she slowly drew her flute? They had fired something at her back (magic, rock, big stick, gun?), but managed to miss while being just a few paces away. Did they just have one shot? Anne even slowly turned around to face them. Lots of time to tackle her while her back is turned—there’s three of them. Still lots of time to tackle her as she slowly pulls out her flute.

Or, soon as they missed their dangerous target then run for cover before she slowly turned around and before she slowly drew her flute.

Which raises another question regarding Anne—if someone fired something at your back and missed wouldn’t you spin fast to ensure they weren’t taking a better aimed shot, or doing a group tackle, or preparing to brain you with a big stick?

And what are weavers anyway? In the confrontation Anne threatens to remove their claws, but later they seem to look like humans or are they are humans, but also look the same as Anne who is, as we learn, is also a weaver or a songweaver or a human or all of the previous? And the whole school is a school for weavers so was it her own classmates trying to attack her? It’s as if the author had different ideas what weavers were, but instead of choosing one idea she incorporated them all into the story regardless of internal consistency.

And being a songweaver is something Anne wants to keep secret, but she weaves and uses flute magic quite openly, hence it is not a Sherlockian leap to deduct she’s a songweaver. Hardly a secret then.

I admire people who can sit down and write a book so I admire Louice for writing her book.

But please—and this is for all would-be authors—run your first draft by some friends or people whose opinion you trust. If they say “It has issues” (that’s polite talk for “It sucks”) then DO. NOT. PUBLISH. YOUR. BOOK! You do NOT want your name associated with a poorly written and poorly planned book that turns readers—and publishers—off anything you later write. Your next books could be good, but no-one will be willing to read them because your first book had multiple “issues”.

Book Rating: 1/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in e-book format by the author to read and give an honest review.


Check out Lisa King’s brand new novel called The Vanishing Hour which is available now on Amazon! She is a Canadian author from London, Ontario and I am super excited to share the love on her new book! If you like post-apocalyptic books, then this one is for you!

IMG_0595

You can buy her book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B081ZHCPGF/



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

Ever heard of Book Snobbery? Well, I did the Book Snob Book Tag and answered some questions regarding the topic. Check out the video below:

Book Review: Frightful Verses

Chris is hammering these books out of the park and spending his time in quarantine helping me out from a distance. This time he read The Frightful Verses: A Collection of Fearful Poems by Francisco a Ojeda.

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Synopsis: A collection of one hundred poems meant to entice the curious and frighten them in many different ways. From the classical and gothic to modern and contemporary, these poems address different subjects seen from the poet’s unique perspective. Aspects of horror, terror, science, religion, politics, philosophy, and even humor fill these pages.

Earlier this year a rather one-sided Twitter debate started when an established author said new authors should read contemporary books if they want to write their own book. A small minority objected saying they could study all they needed from the old classics because those authors knew how to write.

Numerous others pointed out that reading contemporary books help you know which tropes and clichés you should avoid in your own writing. It doesn’t matter if you can write like an old master if you’re writing something that people have seen a hundred times before.

For example, I was reading a science fiction novel written by someone who probably hadn’t read any science fiction novel since the 1970s. It had all the datedness of Heinlein’s bad writing and sexist language without any of the high points of his writing. It didn’t matter that it was well-written. It read like a spoof of bad science fiction tropes from the 1970s.

So, potential authors should read modern books in the genre they wish to write.

That is the advice I would give to the author of The Frightful Verses. In fact, I would advise the author to also study the classics in addition to the modern verses. Nearly every one of the poems (I counted 101) in The Frightful Verses would get at best a C+ mark in a Grade 9 or 10 high school class.

There were 70 poems with four-line stanzas with a rhyming sequence of 2 and 4 (2nd sentence rhymes with the 4th sentence). There were over a dozen with rhymes 1 and 2, then 3 and 4. Sometimes they’re broken up into two-line stanzas and once into six-line stanzas, but they still use similar rhyming patterns and similar metronomy. You could jump from one poem to another and not notice you were now reading a different poem.

For example, see the poem below.

On those rainy gray days

From under the cover, I stay

To keep me warm

And protect me from harm

In a broken mansion

With all the cracks and creaks

You stepped through doors

Not opened in days and weeks

In the long past

A myth had grown

As memories seem to last

A chest was left alone

In a caverned home

Off stagnant Adam’s ale

With pillars shaded gray

And curtains of pale

Entering into the lab

And looking around to see

She was surely ready to stab

Whatever it could be

Neighbors outside their homes

And pointing to the skies

To watch a smoky trail

Behind the thing that flies

That’s actually not one poem. It is composed of the first stanza from six consecutive poems. I could have made it 20 stanzas long from 20 consecutive poems, but six stanzas provide enough example to show the similarity in patterns that is found in nearly every one of the poems. One poem in that style is interesting: seventy to eighty of the same style is tiring.

The other major failing of these poems is that they lack ambiguity in their meanings. Metaphors are mostly absent; the poems are fairly literal and don’t leave much room for altering interpretations. Compare that to T.S. Eliot’s The Wastelands, or The Second Coming (below), which are rife with enough symbolism to fill weeks worth of poetry class discussions.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Or The Hollow Men, also by Eliot.

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams

In death’s dream kingdom

These do not appear:

There, the eyes are

Sunlight on a broken column

There, is a tree swinging

And voices are

In the wind’s singing

More distant and more solemn

Than a fading star.

Even many contemporary songs use ambiguity and symbolism to good effect: Hotel California (Eagles), Demons (Imagine Dragons), Ophelia (Natalie Merchant), Mad World (Gary Jules), Behind Blue Eyes (Limp Bizkit).

Good poets know how to tell a story just in meter and rhythm. They know when to stick to a pattern, they know when to suddenly change it; they know when to use the rules and know when to break the rules. While Francisco does sometimes change his rhyming pattern in mid-poem (as is good), he often forces a rhyme when it would be better to also break it. He used “clichés” to rhyme with “away”. And my favourite example,

It slithers over the sand

Grains stick to its skin

Hoping to gather a meal

Digests all by ptyalin

There are several dozen other rhyming “skin” words that could be used instead of “ptyalin”. However, kudos for getting the word “ptyalin” into a poem: I’ve never seen “ptyalin” used outside of my biology books. It’s an amylase enzyme found in saliva that digests starch. A loaf of bread is fair game for the slithering “it”, but proteins, keratin, lipids, and calcium (muscle, skin, fat, bone) or even cellulose (plants) will be safe—saliva-soggy perhaps, but safely undigested.

If you’re going to write poems you need to read poems. You need to google how to write poems. You should read a book on writing poems. You should really take a class in writing poems. This book of poems, unfortunately, seems to have been written by someone who has done none of the above—and that is a shame because there are some rough gems hidden within the poems. They just need a more knowledgeable, experienced, and craftier hand to make them shine.

Book Rating: 1/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.


Check out Lisa King’s brand new novel called The Vanishing Hour which is available now on Amazon! She is a Canadian author from London, Ontario and I am super excited to share the love on her new book! If you like post-apocalyptic books, then this one is for you!

IMG_0595

You can buy her book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B081ZHCPGF/



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

Ever heard of Book Snobbery? Well, I did the Book Snob Book Tag and answered some questions regarding the topic. Check out the video below: