Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Throwback Review: Cleopatra's Moon


Throwback Review from 2012!

Cleopatra's Moon is a YA historical fiction by Vicky Alvear Shecter.

Cleopatra Selene is a princess. She is the only daughter of the revered, intelligent Cleopatra and the Roman General Marcus Antonius. Her people love her and her twin brother Alexandros, as well as their adorable little brother Ptolly. They are the picture of a happy, beautiful family for a people to look up to.

And Cleopatra Selene has every intention of being just as powerful and brilliant a queen as her mother.

But before that day even comes close the Roman ruler, Octavianus, sets out to destroy Cleopatra. At least that is how he is spinning it. Calling her a witch, a whore, and worse. He's determined to turn the people against her as he slowly gains approval for dismantling all that Cleopatra Selene's ever known and loved.

Events turn horrifying, and after experiencing immense loss of life Cleopatra Selene and her brothers are taken to Octavianus's palace in Rome - a place of enemies.

Yet as Cleopatra Selene grows older she has but one goal in sight: regain Egypt's rule and become a queen that would have made her mother proud.

Cleopatra's Moon stunned me. I've always been interested in Cleopatra - as many people have. But I've never heard much about her daughter, or anyone else she left behind after dying. Vicky Alvear Shecter fixes that here. Sure, this is historical fiction - so some characters only exist in our author's mind, and certain events are having to be imagined from a personal perspective we have no real knowledge of - but the basis of the story is truth, and Vicky Alvear Shecter clearly knows her facts!

Thing is though, Cleopatra's Moon is no historical text. This is not a lesson in ancient history. This is a raw, riveting, fascinating, alive telling of Cleopatra Selene and the turbulent time she grew up in. The crackling detail and the characters are riveting and three-dimensional. I was absolutely hooked from start to finish, and every painful moment in the middle.

That's another point to make on Cleopatra's Moon - it's often horrifying. Shecter doesn't shy away from the anguishing, stark representation of the bloody deaths of family members. The brutal overtaking of the kingdom is enough to make you sick to your stomach, but also sit back in awe at Shecter's undeniable skill at effecting our emotions. Because with such realism and honesty in the face of terrors, what can we do but identify with Cleopatra Selene? Especially as she is heartbreakingly young as she witnesses all of this.

Cleopatra's Moon is a disturbing, suspenseful, powerful journey. Reading it puts you right there in the midst of the unimaginable. The mourning, the brutality, the betrayal, the hurt and the fear are all both difficult to read - yet gripping.

I applaud Vicky Alvear Shecter for reminding me of what I love about well-done, respectful historical fiction! This novel is alluring, captivating, romantic, shocking and overwhelming. In the end, I had tears in my eyes! What a beautiful, wonderful book!!!

BONUS REVIEW:
I want to acknowledge that today is Halloween by mentioning another drawing book! Many of us bibliophiles have a creative streak, or know someone who does, and can find good use in do-it-yourself fun. And this one is in keeping with today's holiday. What's it called? Why, it is How to Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies!

J. David Spurlock is the author and it features the artwork of numerous artists, as well as a foreword by Rob Zombie. This instructional book focuses on many different styles and breaks the steps down into specifics: structure, lighting, perspective, etc. They are pretty creepy, detailed illustrations done by very talented people.

So, if you are interested in nurturing your own talent and learning new tricks, pick up a copy of How to Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies!

See you guys on Wednesday and have a Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Spotlight: Ninth City Burning

This upcoming September, keep your eyes open for this red and orange cover! Ninth City Burning is the first in a new epic science fiction series from the debut novelist J. Patrick Black.

As all best books are, it has a YA and mainstream crossover audience appeal. And if that doesn't whet your appetite enough already, below you'll find an excerpt and some additional info!



Excerpt

The Valentine War, Earth 500 Years Ago
It starts with the world how it used to be, with countries and billions of people living everywhere. Back then there was no such thing as thelemity, and people built houses and machines sort of like they have in settlements today, but all of that changed when the Valentines came.

The reason we call them the Valentines is that the day they first attacked, February 14 on the old Western Calendar, was called “Valentine’s Day”. We still don’t know what the Valentines call themselves, because we’ve never been able to talk to them. We don’t even know what they look like. People had all sorts of different names for them early in the war, but “Valentine” is the one that ended up being the most popular. It used to mean something totally different, but not many people remember that now.

We never saw them coming. All at once cities just started disappearing. A city would be there, everything totally normal, and then it would be gone, nothing but rubble and a cloud of dust. By the time we figured out we were under attack, half the cities in the world had already been destroyed. We tried to fight back, but the Valentines had thelemity, and our strongest weapons were next to useless. They probably would have killed every single person on the planet, except for one thing: It turned out we could use thelemity too.


Cover Copy

Centuries of war with aliens threaten the future of human civilization on earth in this gripping, epic science fiction debut...

We never saw them coming. 

Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.

But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.

Cast of Characters

JAX: A cadet at the Academy and the youngest fontanus in Ninth City. With the ability to harness thelemity, Jax must stand for all citizens during Valentine attacks and act as the only defense between the city and complete destruction. 

NAOMI: The youngest sister in the Ochre family, and a member of the nomadic Walker tribe. Naomi longs to be a scout like her older sister, Rae, but her undiscovered gifts will take her down a different path, far away from the life she knows. 

RAE: The beautiful, impulsive leader of the Ochre family and a scout for the Walker tribe. Rae’s penchant for bravery and lack of fear plunge her into a new world, where her strength will be tested in ways she never imagined. 

TORRO: A factory worker in Settlement 225, which provides supplies and soldiers to the Legion’s war effort. Torro’s uncomplicated life is suddenly disrupted when he finds himself drafted as cannon fodder and shipped away to the horror of the front lines. 

VINNEAS: Procurator of the Academy, responsible for every cadet at the school of Grammar and Rhetoric. Part of being Procurator is being prepared for command in combat, but an unwelcome promotion sends him to active duty sooner than he expects.

IMWAY: The top ranked warrior in the Equites Aspirant, the most elite fighting unit in the Academy. Highly skilled in combat, Imway’s power stems from a suit of armor called ‘equus’ and the ego that comes with it stands the chance of ruining any relationship he has.

KIZABEL: The most sought after Artifex—a creator of artifices—at the Academy. Her most recent project violates many rules, and Kizabel faces expulsion or incarceration if caught. But her project will revolutionize equus design, if she can only get it running.

Together, this unlikely group of allies will face a mysterious enemy and a war that has brought their world to the brink of destruction. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guest Post with Author Catherine Egan!




On June 7th, a new YA fantasy trilogy began with the release of Catherine Egan's Julia Vanishes. It looks to be a promising read! I am honored to have a guest post with the author today!


Maybe it’s a Tree

I first heard the expression “filling the well” – consuming art to fill your own creative reservoirs so they don’t run dry – in an interview with Joss Whedon a few years ago. He was talking about working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the inspiration for Firefly. He said: “My vacation from Buffy was… two weeks every year, and in that vacation I read, in 14 days, 10 books, my wife and I saw like nine plays, and that’s all we did.”

I love that idea and of course it’s true that art will set your mind alight and feed your creative drive. But when I read that interview, my own life was a far cry from going to the theater or wandering through art galleries. I still read books, but often fell asleep mid-sentence. My days were a blur of diaper changes, carefully prepared meals tossed on the floor (and in my hair), and quelling tantrums at the grocery store. “Filling the well,” it seemed to me, required time and, in some cases, money, neither of which I had.

And yet I was writing – desperately, frantically writing, surrounded by piles of dirty laundry and dirty dishes and just, well, dirt, while little boys crashed around the apartment pretending to be dinosaurs. I fact, I was writing far more consistently than I had during the years when my life was full of adventure and the avid consumption of art.

One of my favorite poets, Lucille Clifton, was asked once why her poems were so short. Her answer: “I have six children, and a memory that can hold about twenty lines until the end of the day.” I love that so much. Her poems are short – and razor sharp, luminous, full of the messiness of life. Amid the busy-ness of living and raising children and losing a husband and illness, she wrote poems that reflected everything her days were full of as well as the wider world’s ugliness and sometime beauty.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of imagining that the boring bits of life, the frustrations of the day, the things that are just necessary, are a distraction from writing, even depleting your inner well. But my experience says otherwise.


If you can spend the time (and money) filling the well, that’s great. But sometimes life is hard and busy, and that doesn’t mean your well will run dry. Maybe it’s a tree, not a well, and if the roots go deep enough the world will give you everything you need. This tree can feed on love and joy, but the wonder of it is that it is fed also by regret and disappointment and failure, the petty feelings and the stupid fight you had about money, the flat tire, the French press in pieces on the floor, the overflowing toilet, your own restlessness that chafes and chafes and won’t allow you any peace. I wouldn’t call it fodder, because it isn’t that, exactly – it’s life – but then what else are we writing about? 


I strongly suggest you all go check out Julia Vanishes!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Throwback Review: Anna Dressed in Blood


Throwback Review from 2011!

Anna Dressed in Blood is a YA paranormal ghost story by author Kendare Blake.

Cas is a teenage ghost killer. He has inherited his father's powerful athame, the knife he uses to send deadly ghosts out of this dimension, after he died. And with each kill he is training himself to hunt down the one that brought down his Dad...

His Mom is a kitchen witch, selling mystical stuff on the go, and helping to keep the two of them safe. She's along for the ride somewhat reluctantly, but she knows that just like with her husband - this is Cas's choice, and he's good at it. They move from place to place following legends and leads - and the latest brings them to a town harboring a ghost that is more dangerous than ever - Anna Dressed in Blood.

She's unlike any other ghost he's encountered before. She's fascinating, extraordinary and wears the same dress she was wearing in 1958 when she was brutally murdered. And it drips, neverendingly, with blood. Cas witnesses what she's able to do - how she kills mercilessly with rage.

No one who sees her ever lives to speak about it.

But yet... she lets Cas live.

And there begins Cas's toughest mission yet.

Anna Dressed in Blood has a fantastic, creepy, sad, yet fun opener that gives you a hint at how awesome the book is going to be. The best part? The book follows through!

Cas is an excellent protagonist - he's witty, intelligent, and savvy - fun and interesting to follow. He's like a mix of the hot guys from Supernatural and something entirely new.

Twisty, freaky, and legitimately scary - if Anna Dressed in Blood were a movie, the gore would make it R-rated. Yet Cas's sarcasm and unflappability keep it from becoming too much. The writing maintains a fun and entertaining tone, but allows a deliciously dark edge.

Anna, our title character, is a ghost unlike any other and she astounds both me AND Cas. We are presented with our hero's dilemma and mystery - all of which is very, very intriguing. There's an addictive, but intensely spooky, feel as Cas's obsession with Anna washes over to the reader. It's hard to say too much without giving anything away...

Anna Dressed in Blood is obstinately original, wonderfully bizarre, refreshing, and extremely well-done. It's deeper than you'd initially expect, but does provide you with depth and gravitas to make it even more enjoyable. The end was a little rushed for such an amazing buildup, but it was still great.

This is the kind of story that YA paranormal lovers will fall for - and adult fans as well! Everybody else? Well, you should still give it a shot because there's always a chance you'll be surprised and find that a genre that you didn't think you were a fan of convinces you otherwise!

And me? Well, I am just hoping there's going to be a sequel!!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Book Spotlight: Air

On May 31, Air became available via Barnes & Noble - it's a new YA contemporary novel by Ryan Gattis.

What's it about, you ask?

Synopsis:

When 17-year-old Grey witnesses the tragic death of his mother in Colorado, he is shipped off to live with his aunt in inner-city Baltimore. Grey struggles to fit in to his new school and environment until his new friend, Akil, introduces him to the enigmatic Kurtis, the leader of a group that uses high-octane sports as a form of social activism. By challenging the police with death-defying stunts and then posting videos of them online, Kurtis, Grey, and their group become unlikely heroes in the fight against the prejudice that surrounds them.

As Kurtis takes Grey under his wing, they come up with a name, an insignia and attract more and more followers to their extreme acts. The lines between social activism and criminal behavior blur and their escalating stunts become a rallying point for the underprivileged and disenfranchised around the country, spreading like wildfire across the Internet. How far will Grey and Kurtis go to push their message, and can their fragile alliance withstand their growing power?

Definitely keep an eye out for Air and check it out here!!!