Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Songstone: Review & Giveaway


“Is she really Huwi?”

They stole a glance, but didn’t point. They didn’t dare. For the Huwi were mysterious. They lived in the trees of the smoking mountain, among the ancient island spirits. They protected the sacred places. And they could turn to mist.

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This week, I’m pleased to participate in a blog tour for Lena Goldfinch’s new release Songstone. Amber is hosting the tour over at Seasons of Humility, where you can find a list of other participating blogs and author interviews. (Also, be sure to check out the drawing below!)

As usual, this was a case of jumping in before I knew what to expect.

I like fantasy, but sometimes cringe at romance. Since Songstone has both, I didn’t know which would take the lead, or how the story would turn. Still, the story sounded interesting enough to follow up, and I’m glad I did.


(Bonus fact about Songstone—in addition to writing, Lena designs book covers, including those for her own books, through Stone Lily Publishing & Design Services. She has links on her site to portfolios with other work she has done.)

The story takes place in a—loosely—New Zealand/Maori culture, on a tropical island, with not-quite-hostile tribes separated into isolated villages.

In one of these villages, Kita lives out her own form of isolation. Not only does she look different from the other villagers—different like the enemy Huwi—Kita serves the shaman Matiko, whom the villagers fear, even while they fail to understand him.

When an old covenant between villages must be fulfilled, and a journeyman travels from the other side of the island to find a special kind of singer, Kita sees her chance to escape. To take that chance, however, means she must expose her secret talent to the world, and to her master Matiko.

As a romance fantasy, Songstone blends the magic of the island tribes with Kita’s coming of age story, and her growing attraction to the young stranger who helps her escape from Matiko. There is a relatively minor love-triangle, and many threads of romance running through the story, but I found that the book’s main question isn’t so much who-loves-whom, as it is whether Kita can escape from her fears and face the darkness lurking in her adoptive village.

I’ll admit it—I may have cringed a little at aspects of Kita’s romance, especially the love triangle. It’s a love-story and a YA novel, not my usual pick. Still, Lena makes this world live, and it moves from breath-taking to chilling as Kita discovers new secrets about her world and herself. So, if it does sound like your genre, I’d recommend a read.

For more information about Lena and her other books, check out her blog here.

[My thanks to Lena and Amber for sending me a Kindle ARC of Songstone, in exchange for my honest review of the book.]

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Want to read Songstone yourself? In connection with this blog tour, Lena is offering a giveaway that includes:

• A signed copy of Songstone (Paperback)
• A sea glass necklace with turtle charm, and
• A $10 Dairy Queen gift card (U.S.) or a $10 Amazon.com gift card (international)

As you might guess from the list above, this drawing is open internationally, so go ahead and sign in to enter! Amber will announce the winner on her blog August 2nd, at the end of the tour. Or, you can buy your own copy through any of at any of these retailres:

~ Amazon (Kindle)
~ Barnes & Noble (Nook)
~ Kobo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's a Large Flying Object...


When I stopped to look closer, it looked a little beat up, so it must have been there for a while. It appears, though, this is just the beginning of their season, which runs through August. That makes me think there must be more out there, somewhere.

In the day time, it just looked big, but I’m not sure I’d want to see one flapping about at night. So, if you happen to be out after dark, especially with a flashlight or a porch light—beware!

Something might just come looking for you…


After my initial surprise at finding the moth, I picked it up (with a couple of sticks) and brought it home to take some photos.


Then, a little research found that this is an Antherea Polyphemus, or Polyphemus Moth, named after the Cyclops in Greek myth. The OSU Insect ID Clinic also notes that Polyphemus Moths generally emerge from mid-July through August, with a 4-6 inch wing span. (The website has photos of some other strange looking critters, if you happen to like bugs.) My version looks pale, compared with other photos I found—and a little dilapidated. Still, it's pretty impressive.

Now I'm feeling like The Girl of the Limberlost.


 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Hero's Lot: Review


I’ve been waiting for this book since March, when I read Patrick Carr’s first novel, A Cast of Stones, and once again, I’m thrilled by Carr’s knack for creating the unexpected in The Hero’s Lot.
 
thl1

A lot has changed since Errol Stone was an orphan in Callowford, a drunk with hardly a name and no one to claim him. He goes by the title Milord now, and he just recovering after the treacherous reader Sarin Valon’s attack on the royal court.

But not much has really changed, Errol finds, when he faces a fatal accusation from the church’s Judica.
 
In penance—or perhaps as a death sentence—Errol comes a second time under the church’s compulsion. This time, Errol must track down Sarin Valon and capture or kill him. Valon—who only happens to be possessed of an evil malus, has the ability to track Errol’s every move, and is hiding in Merakh, a nation on the verge of war with the kingdom.
 
Meanwhile, Pater Martin and Luis—the priest and the reader who first pushed Errol into this mess—are running from the consequences of their own crime.
 
Unlike the previous book, The Hero’s Lot alternates between Errol’s point of view and Martin’s. I had no problem following Errol’s search for Valon in the first storyline, while the second half of the story takes Martin and Luis back to Callowford to answer the questions raised by Errol’s apparent importance to the kingdom’s future.
 
I could complain about some minor points, such as the way this medieval world seems to flatten out into the semi-camouflaged countries from John Flanagan’s The Ranger’s Apprentice series. After Carr’s unique approach to world-building and his use of church hierarchy in A Cast of Stones, I’m not sure how to take the Arab/Latin/Mongol countries he introduces here. Carr also produces a too-convenient ending for one annoying minor character. In that case particularly, I’d complain just because the character got off easy and ought to have gotten the comeuppance he deserved.

 Those details aside, though, there is a lot to this story—a lost book, a lost colony of exiles, traitors in the church, as well as in the kingdom at large, Errol’s budding romance, a secret about his father, and other secrets about the decision he or the perfect Liam will have to make to save the kingdom. (I’m glad to say that the secret of Errol’s father didn’t turn how I would have guessed.) And, to add to the growing dangers, Luis and Pater Martin ride right into the conflict between the church’s teaching on Deas, Eleison, and Aurae, and those who claim to know Aurae for themselves.
 
Between a series of violence attacks and the occasional sparks of romance, The Hero’s Lot isn’t a children’s story, but it is a well-told story. Just as in A Cast of Stones, I enjoyed this read for its characters and the story-telling. It would probably be hard to follow all of the action, or understand Errol’s motives without having read A Cast of Stones first—but then, that isn’t exactly a drawback to my way of thinking...there’s a lot of the unexpected in both books.

[My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a review copy of The Hero's Lot in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]
 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dreamlander: Review Link


In Dreamlander, a world exists which anyone can find in their dreams. Only a few—only the chosen—are able to travel between our world and that world. Only one Chosen can possibly make the journey during a Searcher’s lifetime, but Chris becomes the impossible second Chosen...


(You'll have to go here, for the rest of the review.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Book Preview


The best of intentions aside, I haven’t done much writing recently.

But, I have been able to do more reading, and that means more book reviews to come up soon, including a review for The Hero’s Lot, sequel to A Cast of Stones, which I reviewed back in March.

(I’ll just say it now—if you haven’t read A Cast of Stones yet, you should, before adding The Hero’s Lot to your list.)

In addition, I will also review Lena Goldfinch's Songstone on July 31st. This is a brand new fantasy romance, available July 22nd, and I’m honored to be part of the blog tour and giveaway Amber is putting together over at Seasons of Humility. I’ll also add that I enjoyed reading Songstone, and I’ll look forward to reviewing it at the end of the month. (It's got a good bit of romance, yes, as well as a very unique, South Pacific-style fantasy setting.)


And in August, I will be joining Amber for a second blog tour, this time for her debut historical romance novel, Bleeding Hearts. Amber is a college friend of mine, so I’m very excited with her to see this book come out.

Another book I’ve read recently and would like to recommend is Dreamlander, by K. M. Weiland. I’ve been reading Weiland’s blog for writers (http://wordlplay-kmweiland.blogspot.com) since last December and enjoyed her insight, so I was glad to review one of her books recently. I'll post either the review or a link to it soon.

And, because I don’t have enough reading to do yet, I borrowed about a dozen books yesterday to catch up on my reading for Speculative Faith’s 2012 Clive Staples Award, for Christian speculative fiction novels.

Voting started Monday for the award, so if you read a lot of the fantasy or science fiction genres, you might head over there before July 17th, to vote for your favorite. Even if you’re not interested in voting, you might still want to look at the list of nominees, for something of a suggested reading list. I’ve only read three of the books so far, but I have enjoyed Shannon Dittemore’s Angel Eyes (as well as the rest of that series), and what I’ve read of Elizabeth Ann Stengl (Starflower) and Kathy Tyers (Firebird).

What books have you discovered recently?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

This was where we went last night...




Last year, I was up in Alaska, where fireworks wouldn't make much of a show at this time of year. There, they save the fireworks for New Year's, so it was fun to see a display this year, especially so close. I've watched a lot of fireworks from the distance over the years, but this time, on location, they were amazing.

Did you know:

"According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, the country bought 207.5 million lbs (93 million kg) of fireworks last year, spending $645 million."

"Three sparklers burning together generate the same heat as a blowtorch."

(The links have more information about fireworks, if you're interested.)

But for this week, Happy 4th of July! I hope you enjoy the weekend.