Keepers

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My most recent read was an incredible and fast paced book by indie (independent) author, Sacha de Black, Keepers. I’ve read Sacha’s non-fiction but this was her debut into the fiction world, and let me tell you it was well worth the work she put into it!

Meet Eden East, just an elemental girl, livin’ in a steampunk world. Eden’s life is all about Balance, in fact that’s all anyone’s life is about. The job of the Keepers (shapeshifters, elementals, sirens, sorcerers and dryads) and Fallons (a royal Keeper who can control all of the powers of their state) is to keep the Balance, and remove Imbalance from the world of Trutinor. This is done through their respective skill sets depending on their class of magic and through their binding to other Keepers, whom they were fated to be with.

Eden’s life is thrown into chaos when she passes her final exams, and the shapeshifter boy she’s fated to be bound to doesn’t. This is only the tip of the iceberg. On the night of her binding ceremony her parents vanish, a boy from her past arrives amidst a cloud of deceit, and her best friend, Bo is tied up in sinister secrets.  

Thrust into a brewing conflict with immense power her parents and loved ones have tried to keep her from, she is surrounded by treachery from friend and foe alike, making her path uncertain.

If she’s going to survive her search for Balance, the fate of her parents, and ultimately the salvation of the land she loves, then she’ll have to face more than just coming to terms with who and what she has become. She will have to find out who is telling the truth, survive an impossible magical bond that may take her life, travel via steam engine between realms to earth and even the void between the worlds where she comes face to face with horrors she cannot fathom. All this to face the challenging of a system of order that everyone has held as truth for centuries.

If you like steampunk, magic wielding, dimension traveling, political intrigue and a smattering of romance, then this book is definitely for you.

There was a lot going on in this book, and there are times it’s a bit tough to keep up with it all. While some might see that as a setback, I see it as a dive into an elaborate world that I cannot wait to understand more of.

This was a phenomenal beginning for a debut author into a fantastical and intriguing new world, filled with engaging characters.

I gave this book four stars, because I’m required to choose. I did that because I believe that Sacha does have room for improvement, as a new fiction author. That being said, I have full confidence in her ability to do so and I cannot wait to follow her career as well as the story of Eden East of Trutinor.

Keeper

One of my more recent reads was an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of Kim Chance’s debut novel, Keeper. I'm just now getting around to reviewing it, but that's not because I didn't love it! Life is crazy and I might have overloaded my plate for October, but that's a topic for another post.

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                Keeper is about an ambitious young girl, Lainey Stiles who dreams of college and becoming a scientist. She is intelligent though a little awkward in social scenarios. She has the best sidekick ever in her exuberant bestie, Maggie who is into SO many fandoms, my nerdy little heart was doing cartwheels!

                 After a disturbing encounter with a powerful woman Lainey later discovers is a witch from a bygone age, Lainey learns that she herself is a witch (which her uncle who raised her should have told her… along with a few other things) and is thrust into a world filled with magic and dark intrigue. Throw into the mix a dark and broody hunk, Ty, who is more invested in her fate than she can grasp. With the help of her friends, her uncle and his girlfriend, Lainey must come to terms with who she is and what that means not only to herself but the world.

                This story is the perfect, fast paced, fun read filled with Southern Gothic witchy-ness, some historical fun and nods to several other schools of magic and magical creatures (that I’m hoping feature strongly in the sequel?! Please 😊) as well as some amazing comic and nerdy fandom references from my favorite character, Maggie! Chance has a way with her storytelling that is engaging, endearing and exciting and leaving you wanting more.

               I will say that I don’t always love YA (Young Adult), but I went into it expecting a light YA read and I came out very happy. Mostly because it wasn’t nearly as light as I expected. It was intriguing and had some intense dark moments that had me gasping a bit.

                While I wasn’t blown away by the twists and turns, I enjoyed every one of them. I think she set herself up for an amazing series here, and I will definitely be buying ALL THE BOOKS! If it weren’t for the fact that I’m a mom of two young kids and life happened, I would have devoured this book in one sitting!

              I received my ARC from Netgalley and I am on Kim Chance’s Street Team to help her promote her book. I have been a fan of Kim Chance for a while now, watching her writing trials and successes (via YouTube) and her positivity is infectious. You can see her personality all over this book, which is so great! Kim deserves a huge success in her first published work, and I will forever be a fan… and purchase anything she deems worthy to put in my hands.

                Thank you so much Kim, for writing this story and allowing me to be a part of the team that helps you bring this story to the world! You deserve all the best!

And last but certainly not least!

You can pre-order Keeper on Amazon or Barnes&Noble!

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Fiction Unboxed & The Dream Engine

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I read two books. Gasp! No way.

Seriously though, I read two books at the same time, which I’ve done before, but these books are related. And not in a series sort of way. One is Fiction, the other Non-Fiction. What they have in common is their authors, and the goal of one is to explain the existence of the other.

            Huh?

Let me explain. Fiction Unboxed, which I will now refer to as Unboxed (because I can’t call it FU), is a book documenting the journey of two authors (sort of three) who wrote and published a novel, in 30 days, from scratch, in front of the world. (Just look, it’s written on the cover.)

These guys thought, hey writing isn’t hard enough as it is, let’s let people peep over our shoulders while we write our initial garbage. (Because we all know that rough drafts are a pile of… and if you didn’t know, now you do! Even the greats claim their rough drafts are bad.)

But then they said, hey! Let’s see if we can get them to pay us for the privilege to peep. That’s a small bit of exaggeration, but that’s honestly the gist of it. That and the fact that they did it to show people that you can indeed tell a good story, even if it looks hard, and things don’t fit, and your words are wrong, and you have. no. idea. what. you’re. doing.

This idea behind Unboxed spawned not only one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever, but it unleashed a pretty awesome book into the world.

The Dream Engine, an awesome YA steampunk fantasy, is the literary love child of this meeting of the minds between business partners/publishers/writers Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (along with some gruff imput from David Wright). -Stay tuned for a brief spoiler free review of the novel! -

These guys launched a funding campaign that was highly successful and sat their butts down, and wrote a story in one month, while their followers watched them do it. Their fans saw it all, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Initially, I bought the Unboxed book because as a writer, I know I know I have much to learn. I thought, cool. They’ll show me their process step by step and I’ll learn something new. Obviously, that happened. But as they wrote, they warned that there were massive spoilers ahead (as in every single major thing that happens in the entire book). I thought, fine, I’m just here to learn, I don’t need to buy another book. (In retrospect I’m laughing at myself that I ever even tried to resist buying the book.)

The first spoiler rolled out and I nearly threw Unboxed across the room to avoid searing my eyes with any more spoilers, and promptly ordered The Dream Engine straight to my kindle. And devoured it immediately.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t expect to love the story. I just thought it was a pretty cool idea that I might not hate. But I did. I loved it.

Here’s where I’m going to review The Dream Engine. I promise, its major spoiler free. Because I hate spoilers. After that I’m going to jump back to more explanation of Unboxed.

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Eila Doyle is a fifteen-year-old girl just entering the workforce as a Builder, a prestigious job she is proud to uphold just like her father. Just one problem, Eila is having disturbing visions. She shouldn’t have dreams, at least not on her own. Building is quite simply being hooked up to the giant engine called the Blunderbuss, much like the Matrix, and building things it tells her and the team she works with in the Ministry of Manifestation. While hooked up to this machine, she and other builders can “dream” items and then build them in the physical world.

Disturbed by the non-plugged in visions she shouldn’t be having… the real dreams that the drug called Crumble, the drug everyone takes and has always taken, should be blocking… Eila is thrust into a world that she never knew existed.

Having her own Alice in Wonderland type experience, she tumbles down the veritable rabbit hole, following her less than white rabbit, Levi Meade, the handsome, grimy stranger who appears in her dreams. Down the rabbit hole is quite simply under the city of Waldron’s Gate that Eila calls home. There she discovers a whole new world rife with disturbing truths about herself and the world she has always known… or thought she knew. This in turn forces her to decide. What is real? And what is not? And more importantly. What is she going to do about it?

Filled with all the steampunk goodness you’d expect, amazing steam carnival rides and goggles and leather along with the giant steam engine they use to “dream” items into existence. Sounds cool? Well then, why don’t we weave in some glorious fantasy, complete with dragons!

Now I’m going to quit gushing and say what I didn’t care for. There were a handful of typos. Now, I understand that writers are indeed human, as I am one. And we do, from time to time, make errors. (Say it isn’t so!) This was a minor disturbance for me seeing as how I knew how quickly they had written this book.

The other thing(s), were the side characters felt a bit underdeveloped for my taste. I had a difficult time investing emotionally in a few of them, while also drawn to others, but without a finger to put on why. This again, was minor for me. Considering their breakneck writing pace. A setback I’m hoping they’ll rectify in the sequels. Which I will be buying.

All in all, I have read far worse books that have taken people years to write. I understand this was a meeting of two minds working in tandem, that had worked well (and frequently) together in the past. But they had never done this. A whole book, start to finish, in 30 days.

They didn’t just write it, they edited it, polished it, fixed errors, tweaked, added back story and world building, and promoted the book, then published it. IN. 30. FREAKING. DAYS. That’s nothing to shake a stick at.

Reading Unboxed after The Dream Engine was so much fun. Much like opening a grandfather clock to see how it works.  You love the clock, it tells the time, looks magnificent and makes a rather beautiful resonating and warming sound (unless you’re home alone at midnight) … but you’d kinda like to see the cogs move and see how it all works together. This may be a poor metaphor but in my head it works well.

The authors went day by day and worked out what came to them on each day, what they did, why it worked. Or didn’t work. Because, though these guys have written lots of books, they don’t have it all perfect. And they’re the first to say so.

My favorite thing about Fiction Unboxed (other than the fact that it introduced me into a new fantasy world that I can’t wait to read more in), was the fact that they gave actionable steps at the end of each chapter. They slogged through their wordiness, and parsed out the BS into bullet points. Things that you should take away from this chapter if you learned nothing else. And then something to DO.

Because that’s really what the most important part of why they did all this. Is because it was a challenge, yes. Because it was something new, yes. Because they wanted to shed some light on the subject, create an internship of sorts, and do something no one else had done yet… yes on all three counts.

But most of all, because it’s most important to just write.
Listen to yourself, not the voice of resistance and doubt. Listen to yourself,
not the voice of procrastination. And when in doubt, get started.

 

And because they wanted to teach and encourage others to not be afraid, to realize that writers block, or really any obstacle you encounter, can be beaten. So long as we stop taking the Crumble-esque self-doubt drug and “summon the stones to get started” because there is magic in the written word.

 

There is magic there, but it’s an accessible magic- one all of us,
with practice and patience, can learn to find.

If I totally sold you on these books you can buy them on Amazon.com. Fiction Unboxed. The Dream Engine.

(Disclaimer: I was not paid to promote these books, these are simply my opinions and I loved them enough to refer them to you!)

Broadening My Horizons

Hello August!

               I'm here to give myself new reading goals! Huzzah!

               I realize I just posted my Quarterly Goals, and in that post, I claimed I would only read two books per month. If you know me, then you know that’s a total crock of... well, I lied. Yes, I know it’s not polite to lie, my mama and daddy raised me right. I apologize.

               I feel bad changing the game halfway through the quarter, but I have a problem with my current goal. And here I am to rectify that problem. At first I felt bad about changing my goals because I’m a perfectionist and I freak out when I make mistakes. (Don’t judge me okay, I know I’m crazy.) I keep having to remember that I am constantly changing and growing and my goals need to move along with me!

                My problem is this, I read too much fiction. GASP! Say it isn’t so! I wish I could. But that would be more lies, and I promised to keep it honest here.

                I love fiction. I love to immerse myself into another world, climbing mountains, and riding dragons and conquering evil using the words the author has crafted together to build an amazing world filled with glorious ideas. Loosing myself in the pages of a good book is as cathartic to me as therapy is to others. Just as easily though, I begin to lose my touch on reality and productivity.

                This is a problem on the most basic level as a functioning member of society (I do desire to be one of those, one day), but also as a wife, mom, sister, daughter and friend.

                I have goals folks. In all walks of life. I want to be the kind of person that inspires others. But I don’t think that sitting on the couch is all that inspiring. Sure, it sounds nice after a long day, but I need to do things too.

                I’m talking big picture here. I want to accomplish things with my life. I want to be a help-mate and partner to my husband in our life together. I want to be a happy, loving mom. I want to be someone that people can rely on for love, support and good advice. I want to learn more about what I believe in. I also want to be a phenomenal writer. (Go big or go home, right?)

               Don't get me wrong, fiction will give a certain amount of wisdom, let me tell you. In my limited life experience, I have a lot more empathy and wisdom because I read. There is always a message, something to be gleaned, even from fiction.

Here’s the verbal eraser... but. But I need to learn more... differently? Broad, arms outspread, if you will. 

                I am addicted to learning. I love to learn new things, but I haven’t been pushing myself to learn anything new lately. I’ve been writing sure, and that in and of itself is practicing a behavior that develops into a skill. So, I suppose I can indeed pat myself on the back for that one.

                Otherwise I have not pushed myself outside of my comfort zone in a long while. Even in my fictional adventures I’ve not branched out far. I used to have a much wider reach in my literary selections. I’d like to get back to that.

       I want to be a writer. And not just any writer. I want to be a good one. A great one even. I may not hit the New York Times Best Sellers List…but I’ll be darned if I’m not going to shoot for the moon. If I’m going to be as good as I can be, I must be willing to be teachable. To learn.

                I want to read a wider range of books. Not just new fiction. (*Disclaimer: I do believe it is important to read a wide range of current authors as more diverse people are being published than in the past, but I don’t want to get stuck in the trap of reading only what everyone else is reading.)

What does that look like for me?

  • More non-fiction. Biographies, histories, philosophy, religion.
  • More books about writing, becoming an author, publishing, and all that my new career entails.
  • More classics. The challenge that they bring mentally is a much needed one.
  • More indie authors (independently published). There are some awesome ones out there!
  • More unique and diverse authors.

                My new monthly reading goal, beginning now, is as follows:  One non-fiction or classic book. One Writing related book. One new fiction book. (By new, I mean published within the last 10-15 years.) That makes three books. I’ll probably read more, but who is sad about that? Not me!

                I will say, whatever I achieve above and beyond this goal, is a welcome bonus. My biggest challenge is going to be waiting to read more fiction until I’ve finished my non-fiction or classic. I believe it is important to challenge and stretch ourselves.

                What are your reading goals? What does your “to be read” pile look like? Any recommendations on books (new, old, educational, fun?) that I simply can’t wait to read? I’ll add them to my list!

August Reading Recap

It seems I’m always saying that the month flew by but seriously, August flew by! Could help that I read a crap-ton of books. Seriously though. I completed 9 books! I tried to make it an even 10 but to no avail! I’m not going to recap each and every one, as I read a couple of series (or parts of them). So I will give my overall impression of the series.

July Reading Recap

I only read two books last month. Two. (Hangs head in shame.) Well I can’t do anything about it now, it was a crazy month and I just couldn’t really get into anything I picked up. This sad state of affairs is also reflected in my writing as well, which is why this blog post is a couple weeks late. So let’s get started.