Friday, 20 February 2015

Book Review: The Spirit Rebellion

The Spirit Rebellion (The Legend of Eli Monpress, #2)The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came to this book without reading the first in the series, but it was immediately easy to follow and enjoy the fast-paced story. I’ve wanted to read a novel by Rachel Aaron since I came across her brilliant writers’ blog and how-to-guide, ‘from 2k to 10k’.  Could writing at speed really result, as she claimed, in compelling stories and flowing prose, or would the speed show up in the form of poor plotting or sloppy style?  Well, since coming across The Spirit Rebellion (book 2 in a series featuring the incorrigible thief Eli Monpress), I have my answer.  Despite the very occasional typo, The Spirit Rebellion is a superb story, well written, and I would have been proud to have produced it at any speed.

Eli Monpress is an entertaining character: a roguish wizard with a penchant for befriending waifs and strays, and accumulating priceless artefacts. Miranda, apart from being a Spiritualist, is more of your average girl-next-door type, and she’s not too happy about finding herself thrown into the midst of Eli’s chaotic way of life, especially when it leads to her expulsion from the Spirit Court, to which she’s dedicated her life. When Eli’s latest theft and Miranda’s new job bring them both to the Duke of Gaol’s citadel, they are thrown together again in a quest to vanquish the tyrannical ruler of the region.

Their quest pits them against some fearsome adversaries, and the book is peopled with an unlikely but fascinating cast of characters, including a demon-possessed girl, the West Wind, and Eli’s adoptive father. There’s never a dull moment in this high-speed adventure, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the rest of the series.

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists

A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicle of Light and Shadow, #1)A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I bought this at the Romantic Novelists' Association conference in Sheffield, which means it's been sitting on my shelf an embarrassing eighteen months.  What finally prompted me to read it was my sudden fascination with steampunk, which resulted from being introduced to Lindsay Buroker's excellent 'Emperor's Edge' series.  Like the 'Emperor's Edge' series, 'Conspiracy of Alchemists' combines charming whimsy with darkly gritty realism.
Pilot Elle Chance wants nothing more than to fly her airship in peace, but when she agrees to ship a mysterious box back from Paris to London, she finds herself dragged into a dangerous quest to thwart the Alchemists’ plans for world domination. Throw in a mysterious stranger, a pocket absinthe fairy and a trip aboard the Orient Express, and you have the recipe for the ultimate magical mystery tour.
The historically realistic detail combined with lashings of magic and science make for an atmospheric read, while the high stakes in Elle’s adventure kept me turning pages relentlessly.
 No wonder this won Liesel Schwarz an award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association – although the book is so much more than just a romance!

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Six Sentence Sunday: A Taste of Something New

In this week's snippet, a casual conversation over doughnuts (or donuts, for the benefit of the US market), leads Sal to get a taste of a new experience.  She wishes she knew what it felt like to be beautiful (at least, beautiful in a conventional, model-like way, since to Wulf she's already beautiful). And, of course, her own personal genie is happy to oblige.  

They walked and ate in silence as they approached the narrow door alongside the shop entrance.  Sal was surprised to see someone coming out of the building, also licking donut sugar off her fingers, despite being far too skinny and lovely to seem the type to go for junk food. 
And beside her was... the most beautiful man Sal had ever seen.  With familiar violet eyes and dark flowing hair.

She looked down at her fingers.  So did the woman in the doorway.  

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Writer Wednesday Interview: Zrinka Jelic

Today I am hosting fellow Crimson Romance author Zrinka Jelic.  Make sure to read to the end, as Zrinka is kindly offering an ecopy of Rose of Crimson or one of her other books to one lucky commenter.  

Welcome to my blog. I’ve never met a Zrinka before! Is it a Croatian name?

Thanks for having me on your blog today. It’s a pleasure to be here. Yes, Zrinka is a Croatian name. It comes from an ancient noble family Zrinski. That last name still exist in Croatia, but the descendants are no longer nobles or they never been. During Feudalism serfs often assumed or were given their masters’ last name as a stake or claim on their lives.

You live in Canada now. Do you make use of your different travel experiences in your stories?

Yes, for over twenty years now I’ve been calling Canada my new home. I always use experiences from my travel in my stories, however sometimes readers have a hard time believing certain things, like you cannot rent a car with automatic gear shift everywhere on this planet. I can’t speak for the entire Europe, but in Croatia this is a rarity. Though the rental agencies may advertise a small number of vehicles in their fleet with automatic shift, beware, the price for such cars is doubled if not tripled and the location you’re renting from may not have it, if you book online, that could be for a different location in a totally different town. But, I don’t often put troubles one can encounter while traveling abroad, there are many pleasant experiences that far outnumber the bad ones and you can expect that not absolutely everything will go smoothly on your travels.

Here in the UK, it's much more common to rent manual cars, but you can get an automatic if you ask nicely!  But that's enough about cars.  Tell us about your latest book.

My 5th novel is titled Rose of Crimson and it was released by Secret Cravings Publishing on December 23rd, 2014. This is a prequel to Bonded by Crimson which was published on January 15th, 2012. I started working on the prequel the day I was offered a publishing contract for Bonded by Crimson. Then it got pushed to the back burner while I worked on other projects. Since then I’ve written and published Treasured Chest, a pirate romance, Love Remains, a time travel romance and Deck the Halls, a Christmas novella.. 
Rose of Crimson is based on a Croatian legend from late 17th century. Local people like to refer to the tragic love story as their Romeo and Juliet, only in this version the young lovers (Miljenko & Dobrila) are from feuding aristocratic families who would stop at nothing to keep them apart. Even when Dobrila’s father accepted the offered hand of peace, he couldn’t deal with the fact that Miljenko won and took his daughter.
However, Rose of Crimson is not a historical romance. In the book the hero, Miles—he shortened it from Miljenko—telepathically projects his story onto the heroine, Kate—who has a special connection with him through her ancestor. I wanted to present the passages of his past life differently than just jump from past to present through the chapters. I wanted a reader to know when we’re entering and exiting his story. Because, he sought her out to write down his story. Both books are stand alone, though the ending in Rose of Crimson may not leave you satisfied, Kate and Matthias do find their happily ever after in Bonded by Crimson.

Bonded by Crimson features a centuries-old immortal hero, and Love Remains includes an angel. What are the challenges of writing paranormal characters, and how do you overcome them?

Lately media plants images of flawless paranormal characters, e.g. vamps, wares, ghosts. They are exceptionally great looking, rich, forever young, hip, and cool, they can eat whatever and not gain weight, and I can’t help it but think this is some kind of a dream. We all wish this. However, these characters were at some point ordinary humans and as such they were flawed. If they continue to live they’d carry the same flaws into immortality. As the saying goes, the trouble with fiction is that it has to make sense. Many paranormal books are bogged down with demons, angels, vamps, and the world they live in. My paranormal books are light on the paranormal world, there’s just enough of it to fit the genre. Paranormal characters have some extraordinary skills or powers, but nothing too drastic. The most I gave to Matthias/Miles is the ability to block the part of the mind of the mortals that would allow them to see him, hence the invisibility, but they could bump into him since he’s present in body. Once he established the connection he is able to communicate telepathically.
The ghost in Love Remains can take an ordinary person and plant them into a what-if kind of life, as happened to Olivia who turned her back on love and family.  

What books or authors do you think have influenced you?

There were many big name authors, I read any genre. One that I’m very fond of is Arturo Perez Reverte, I love all his Captain Alatriste stories. At the moment I’m reading second in the series of A Song of Ice and Fire ; A Clash of the Kings and finding George R.R. Martin pretty influential. However, the only author I’m striving to be like is the better one I’ve been yesterday. In other words, I want to develop my own voice and style. I’ve seen new authors trying to emulate their favorite author, but that doesn’t work, it is simply not their voice or style.

Are you influenced by other media, like TV, film or art?

I don’t have a cable TV and after seeing what kind of program is on lately, I really don’t miss it, but I do love movies and yes, I’m influenced by them. I often think of what if that happened instead of this. That is how I get ideas for the new stories, put them in a different setting and voila. But I also like to resurrect old love legends that often end in tragedy and give them a whole new twist.

Where can we find out more about your books, and where are they available for sale?

Find me on:  Amazon  Facebook   Twitter 

Visit my  Blog   

And now for an excerpt:

He had pulled the door open and there she sat, on top of the steps. Hadn’t he told her to go home and pack? Wait, something was different about her. She was younger, a child almost. Her hair was tied in a high ponytail, her clothes…God almighty! She was naked, save for a few scraps. Could her breeches get any shorter? The threads hung loose form the frail hem, as if she put shears to her leggings. Her long, tanned legs were bare for all to see. Her shirt, if one could call it such, sleeveless, backless even, held by two thin straps tied around her neck, depicted a pony. Whoever put animals on their attire and with glittering mane of all things?
“Oh my God!” Kate screeched, but didn’t pull her hands out of his. “I remember this encounter. That’s me.”
“That is you. The last time I saw your great-great-grandmother was the first time I saw you.”
“Wicked.” Her voice carried her fascination. “It’s some kind of an omen.”
“Something or someone tried to tell me something,” he said. Maybe they were destined for one another, and nothing he did would keep them apart.
“Now I know why you scrutinized me as if I came from some other world. In your eyes, I did. To me you didn’t appear out of place. I thought you pulled your clothes from your grandpa’s chest for the local festivity. I figured the weakness that poured over me as a sign of heat or sunstroke.”
“How do you explain the rose I gave you?” He snickered at her last comment, the old clothes stored together with moth balls in squeaky chests with rusted hinges and used on occasions such as festivity to resurrect the old traditions and attract visitors.
Her long gaze and soft smile settled on him. If she was trying to play cool and not show how much she wanted him, her pretending failed. “My memory has faded a little since then, but I clearly remember you picking the flower and offered it to me. My mom is adamant that I picked it myself. She said good thing the custodian didn’t catch me.”
His heart sunk at the mention of the home he grew up in. It had been decades since he last touched its stone walls. The once mighty castle, closed for the family affairs, was now open for everyone to roam about for the price of the admission. At least the money generated was used to preserve the building and grounds, and employed a few people.
KATE ROKOV‘s grades are plummeting. She needs to get the voice out of her head or she will flunk her finals.

MATTHIAS ZRIN, a three centuries old immortal, born into an aristocratic family as Miles Rušinić, is enthralled with Kate. It is his voice preventing Kate from sleeping and her ignorance is testing his limits. He wants her to write down his story to settle his wife’s earthbound spirit. His tragic love story has become Kate’s obsession since fifth grade during her summer trip to Rušinić castle.

You can pick up a copy for your
Please say hi to Zrinka in the comments, and make sure you leave your email address if you'd like to be in with a chance to win an ecopy of one of her books.  

Monday, 9 February 2015

Book Review: Yesterday People

Yesterday People: Book 3 of the Past Life SeriesYesterday People: Book 3 of the Past Life Series by Terri Herman-Poncé
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yesterday People is the first book I've read in the Past Life series and I was a bit concerned that I would be confused starting at book 3, but the author does a great job of feeding in exactly the information you need, from the gripping, terrifying beginning, through all the twists and turns of the present-day story and the snippets of the characters' past lives. You don't need to believe in reincarnation to enjoy the clever interweaving of history and reality as the lives of the central characters play out a situation that has evolved over centuries.
David Bellotti is an appealing hero who cares deeply for his partner and his daughter, and often makes the wrong decisions, but always for the right reasons. Lottie, too, is a believable, likeable character, though at times I lost sympathy with her a little when she found herself unable to resist the draw of the third person in the triangular relationship: Galen, a present-day friend and another player in their past life adventures.
Overall, this is a well-researched story told in a lively style: think Barbara Erskine meets Dan Brown. I will definitely go back and fill in on the first two books.

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Sunday, 8 February 2015

Six Sentence Sunday: These Things Don't Happen

Six sentences from Djinn and Tonic in which Sal is more than a little confused.  She asks Wulf what's going on and he responds in typically cryptic fashion...

“We go to beach.  You wish it.  We here.”
“How come? I've wished a lot of things before. I wished to be a millionaire, and I'm still skint.  I wished that blond bitch on my course would fail and come out in boils, and she graduated with honours and just made the cover of Vogue.  And I wished for a perfect model...”
Oh!  That was the first wish to come true, when Wulf walked through the door.  So had some kind of a personal genie appeared overnight, and forgotten to mention it was granting her three wishes?

Things like that didn't happen.  Especially to invisible photographers surrounded by beautiful people.  If things were going to happen, they happened to people like Christina and Harriet and Simon, not to her.  

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Book Review: When God Was a Rabbit

When God Was a RabbitWhen God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wide-ranging story which could easily have taken the Austen-esque subtitle 'Love and Friendship'. Elly's relationships with her brother and best friend are at the heart of the story, but the backdrop of the story takes in many major events spanning several decades. From the death of Princess Diana to the fall of the twin towers, events are filtered through Elly's unique perspective. This is a rare story which is truly character driven yet remains totally absorbing even without a complex plot. This is mainly down to the fantastically drawn family relationships, but also the gentle, wry style of writing. Oh, and there's a rabbit. Called God.

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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Six Sentence Sunday: A Trip to the Beach

Last week I started revising a paranormal story called 'Djinn and Tonic' and introduced you to the heroine, Sally, a photographer, and the hero, Wulf, a djinn, or genie.  This week, Sally makes a casual wish to get away from it all, and gets a bit more than she bargained for.  

Wulf took a step towards the door, and then another, and she found herself hurrying forward, feeling pulled faster than the movement of her feet suggested.  At the threshold, she stumbled, and she let go of his hand to catch herself against the door frame. 
It wasn't there.

“What the...?” This was too weird for any normal swearword to do it justice.  Instead of bruising herself against the door frame, she'd tumbled forward, through where the wall should have been, and landed sprawling in warm sand.  She looked around for the studio that should have been behind her, and thought she caught a glimpse of black spinning off into the distance, but now there was nothing to see but the rolling waves.