Sunday, August 18, 2019

Phoenix Fiction Writers Giveaway

Today I am celebrating my 200th blog post! *throws confetti* *inhales confetti* *coughs up confetti* Maybe I should imagine throwing something else…

Anyway, I’d like to thank my readers once again for your support, and because my blogiversary giveaway got way more attention than I’d expected, I’m here to share another giveaway with you! International entries welcome.*

This time, however, I’d like to feature some indie authors, specifically the Phoenix Fiction Writers. They’re a group of speculative fiction authors who write short stories to novels that cover fairy tale retellings to original works. Though I haven’t read all of their stories yet (slow down, guys!), I have enjoyed the ones I’ve read so far.

The following books are organized by authors’ last names.

*Print entries only available in the US. International entries are welcome for e-books only. Some books may have restrictions for certain countries. If the book of your choice is not available in your country, you may have to select a substitute.


Beast in the Machine by E. B. Dawson

A sci-fi retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

There are only two reasons people move to Ilford: to study at the renowned scientific research center, or to escape society. Dr. Richter intends to further his research. But his daughter Isabelle finds there is a strange enmity between the scientists and the villagers, and it has something to do with the reclusive man who hired her, Dr. Sebastian Prince. 

I haven’t actually read this one yet, but what a stunning cover! I’m a huge fan of sci-fi, so that’s a plus.


“Sounds of Deceit” by Hannah Heath

One sorcerer. Four assassins. Uncover the stories of the warriors who will one day band together to kill the most powerful being in their world.

Death and destruction. Those are the consequences of being a magician under Elgar's rule. Ailith once thought that she could be the exception, but now she sees that her skillset only brings about pain, even upon those she intends to protect. Convinced that there is only one solution, Ailith buries herself in obscurity and turns her back on the warrior life.

It is a simple decision at first, but one that grows more and more complicated as Elgar, a tyrannical sorcerer, continues his reign of death and injustice. When Ailith is offered an opportunity to fight against Elgar once again, she must decide: Will she continue to live in fear of her powers? Or will she embrace them, no matter the consequences?

Heath’s latest short story in her Terebinth Tree Chronicles. For those new to the series and to her work, her other stories are also available as potential prizes: “Skies of Dripping Gold” (stand alone, see short story review), “Colors of Fear” (Terebinth Tree, #1), and “Flames of Courage” (Terebinth Tree, #2).


Two Lives Three Choices by K. L. + Pierce

When two new students arrive at Krysta’s school, she quickly discovers she must: choose her friends. Seeing one of the new students sitting alone, Krysta must decide whether she’s willing to risk a friendship she already has for someone she hardly knows. That choice causes Krysta to have visions, revealing that the new arrivals are more than they seem. Choose her side. The new students, Alec and Dion, are more than rivals. They are bitter enemies involved in the war that Krysta is suddenly thrust in the middle of. Unable to run, she must now choose where her loyalties lie. Choose whether she’s willing to die for those she loves. Because when a friend is in danger, Krysta knows she can save them. But saving her friend’s life could cost Krysta her own. Those three choices will define the life Krysta leads… and the one that she leaves behind.

More sci-fi! Aside from her short story, I haven’t read much of Pierce’s work yet, but I’m curious to see how her full-length novel plays out.


The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz (Signed copy!)

Fairy tales aren’t real. Private detective Nick Beasley knows that. This is 1922 E.A. (Ever After), an age of big cities, automobiles, and airships. Nobody in the Afterlands believes in magic and monsters anymore. Especially not Nick, who’s made a name for himself in the city of Talesend by debunking fraudulent “magical” phenomena.

But when a misadventure with alleged enchantress Lady Cordelia Beaumont goes awry, leaving Nick with claws, a tail, and quite a lot of fur, he begins to rethink his stance on magic.

There’s only one way for Nick to regain his humanity. He and Cordelia will have to retrieve a powerful magical artifact from a ruthless crime lord—who happens to be Cordelia’s father. Otherwise, Nick won’t be the only monster roaming through Talesend.

The fate of the Afterlands lies in the hands of a renegade enchantress and an extremely hairy detective. What could possibly go wrong?

Typically, I’m not a huge fan of fairy tale retellings because I find them uber predictable, but there are a few stellar ones for which I’m willing to make exceptions. The Beast of Talesend is one of them (see book review). I started the series last year, and I’m eagerly awaiting book 4.


Child of the Kaites by Beth Wangler

Desert fantasy retelling of the story of Moses, with magic swords, homicidal storms, and griffins.

The kaites are spiritual beings who can dwell in rocks, plants, and water.

They saved baby Rai from the watery death faced by her people. They raised her in the blessed region. They told her she would be the Leader of a Revolt.

She was going to free her people from slavery.

At least, that's what Rai used to believe. Then she grew up.

Living as an exile under an assumed identity, Rai can't lead a conversation, let alone a slave revolt. Her role in life is to be an historian. She will lead her people by reminding them of who they are, nothing more.

Yet the Izyphorn empire's evils continue. Her people are still enslaved. Babies are dying every day.

Someone needs to do something.

Reunions with childhood friends and encounters with an enigmatic stranger force Rai to reexamine what her purpose is. Is she called to be a humble historian or a mighty warrior...

Or are those the same thing?

Did somebody say griffins? I have yet to read this one, but it sounds incredible. I have read a couple of Wangler’s short stories, and I enjoy her writing style!


Antiheroes: A Phoenix Fiction Writer’s Anthology

Seven science fiction and fantasy stories about antiheroes:


  • A man determined to get justice for his family, no matter the cost
  • A gynoid with two conflicting programming directives
  • A teenage boy determined to protect the people who have become his friends
  • A monster slayer who is not everything she appears to be
  • A young cyborg who makes an unthinkable choice in hopes of a better future
  • A mischievous shopkeeper trying to stay one step ahead of trouble
  • A blood hunter who discovers a lie that will change the course of her life

This collection turned out to be a delightful read. A collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories by each of the Phoenix Fiction Writers.



Let’s chat! Which Phoenix Fiction book are you most interested in reading? Have you read any of them before? What’s your take on fairy tale retellings? Do you prefer sci-fi or fantasy? How about both?

***

Sunday, August 11, 2019

7 Reasons I Enjoy Young Adult Novels


I can’t believe I haven’t written about this yet. I mean, come on, what am I thinking!?

So I know Young Adult (YA) fiction isn’t technically a genre. If we’re going to be technical and all, it’s more of a target audience. (For those unfamiliar with bookish terms, bookworms refer to young adults as those ages 13-18, not 18-24.) I guess you could say I find myself drawn to books for teenagers.

Here are just a few reasons why.


1) YA novels aren’t as dense as some of the other books on my TBR list.


For example, I really, thoroughly enjoy Les Miserables and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell but my goodness! Why are they so LONG?

Often times, YA novels range between 250-350 pages. Every now and then, one might border on 400, and rarely 800. (I’m looking at you, Inheritance and Order of the Phoenix.) With this length, it’s so much easier to pick shorter books up, carry them around, and read them in one sitting.

Just a few perfectly short novels include but are not limited to:

The Giver by Lois Lowry at 208 pages (arguably middle grade, but I’m lumping it with young adult here)
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart at 242 pages (see book review)
A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews at 282 pages (see book review)

2) They’re engaging, easy reads.


Sometimes, I don’t like to work to understand a book. Some days, I just want a story to sweep me away so that I forget I’m reading at all.

For example, when I was walking the Camino, I was torn between reading a sci-fi novel or a YA contemporary. I figured I’d read the first page of each and see which one I preferred. I read then put down the sci-fi novel. Then I picked up the contemporary, and before I knew it, I was on chapter two. For anybody wondering, that book was Kids Like Us, and you can check out my book review here.

3) The themes are more complex in young adult novels than in middle grade ones.


I sense another post coming on…

Until then, I like how in-depth young adult novels can be. From stories about found families to those that confront toxic stereotypes, YA is one of the most dynamic target audiences. While there are still areas that need improving (ease up on the romance, please, I’m begging you!), you don’t have to go far to find great themes.

Just a few YA novels with excellent themes include the following:

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (see book review)
Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (see book review)
The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims


4) Reading YA makes me feel young.


I mean, I’m still young, but technically I “aged out” of being the target audience six years ago. Do you think that’s going to stop me from reading books about high schoolers? Haha, nope. I’ve never fit in with my age group. What makes you think I’m going to start now?

It’s also fun to read YA novels and then force them on recommend them to my sister. Once she reads them, we can geek out together. It’s a lot of fun! And by fun, I mean she just about killed me when she accidentally spoiled Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity, book 2) for herself.

5) YA introduced me to so many amazing genres.


If I hadn’t read as much YA as I do, I probably wouldn’t have discovered some amazing books. I started off enjoying fantasy and animal stories. Now, I don’t read as many animal stories, and I still enjoy fantasy, but thanks to YA, I’ve also discovered novels in verse (So. Much. YES!), historical fiction, realistic contemporary, and even some classics.

I could use more YA sci-fi, though. I am now accepting recommendations. Please, and thank you.


6) YA novels can be empowering.


Another thing I like about this category is how it’s so hopeful. That’s not to say that every book is about hope—sometimes it’s downright depressing. But overall, YA is full of characters taking action rather than bemoaning their lives.

You want to change the world? Go do it!

A few YA novels that have empowered me:

A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Audacity by Melanie Crowder (see book review)
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

7) Reading YA can be addicting.


You know how I mentioned I read two chapters without realizing it? Well, sometimes that happens with books and series too. YA can be really easy to get hooked on.

When I finished my M.A. in English Lit, for months on end, I almost read nothing but YA. Since I’ve finished with my degrees for the moment, I’ve gone back to reading more classics and nonfiction, but YA is still my go-to, especially when I step into a bookstore or library.

8) Bonus: I like to write YA.


Apparently, I can’t count.

The best type of research is experience. If you want to know what it’s like to go skydiving, do it. If you want to know what it’s like to be a teenager, use the quantum void to become a teenager again. I mean… um… you know, reading YA fiction helps. So does spending time with young adults.

There you have it! Just a few reasons why I read what I read and why I post so many reviews about YA novels.

Let’s chat! Where are my fellow YA readers? How about YA writers? What are some of your favorite elements of YA? Any that I missed? Have any sci-fi recommendations?

***


Literary references: Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, C. G. Drews’ A Thousand Perfect Notes, Hilary Reyl’s Kids Like Us, Jeff Zentner’s Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner, Nadine Brandes’ Fawkes, Laura Tim’s The Art of Feeling, Victoria Schwab’s Our Dark Duet, Robin Roe’s A List of Cages, Melanie Crowder’s Audacity, and Akemi Dawn Bowman’s Starfish

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Poem: Fireflies

I find aspects I enjoy in every place I live. In England, I enjoyed biking along the canals and the river. From my last house, I enjoyed hiking up to nearby German castles, and in Spain, I liked listening to the always-distant mockingbirds. 

In the American Midwest, I have enjoyed re-discovering fireflies. As a kid, I used to catch them while visiting my grandparents’ house and when we lived in Kansas. While people here may just consider them another bug, I see them as a novelty, a beauty, a passing moment that I wish I could hold on to, but may one day have to let go. 




Fireflies 

Sometimes I wish I could disappear— 
one moment bright and glowing, 
like a buoy bobbing in the night, 
then—

                    vanished. 

I still exist
                    in the dark 
but here, I don’t have to shine 
—just be. 



*** 

Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? What are some aspects you enjoy about where you live?