The Spirit Engineer by A.J. West

Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism, attending séances in the hope they might reach their departed loved ones.

William Jackson Crawford is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sitting around the circle, voices come to him – seemingly from beyond the veil – placing doubt in his heart and a seed of obsession in his mind. Could the spirits truly be communicating with him or is this one of Kathleen’s parlour tricks gone too far?

Based on the true story of Professor William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, and with a cast of characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, The Spirit Engineer conjures a haunted, twisted tale of power, paranoia and one ultimate, inescapable truth… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Spirit Engineer will be available October 7th.

I will be honest: I didn’t know much about William Jackson Crawford going into The Spirit Engineer, so everything written was a surprise to me. That being said, if I had been an expert on his life, I still would have been engrossed. The Spirit Engineer is an engrossing book that delves deep into the subjects of loss, paranoia, belief, and what can happen when a person’s beliefs are questioned.

Professor William Jackson Crawford is a man of science who doesn’t subscribe to paranormal nonsense, thank you very much. He thinks himself too smart to fall for any trickery and is preoccupied with dreams of rising far in his field. However, William learns that his wife has been visiting mediums and takes it upon himself to disprove the idea of communicating with the deceased. Thus, the Spirit Engineer is born.

I don’t usually comment on the characteristics of those that are based on real people, but William is not likeable at all. Nor is he relatable. At most, I could say he’s pitiable, and even that is a stretch. William is condescending and feels he is superior to others. He is a man who desperately wants to be in control of himself, of his work, of others. The more he feels his orderly life slipping away, the more paranoid and desperate he becomes. Things go in unexpected directions when, instead of proving the medium is a fraud, William sees and hears the spirits himself. Is he deceived? Or has he stumbled upon something otherworldly? Of course, I don’t need a character to be likable or relatable to enjoy a book. Instead, he was fascinating, which is much more important to me.

The writing was fantastic. It was smart and engaging. I’m assuming that there was some embellishment, but the author obviously tried to stay close to the sprit (pun intended) of the facts. The story developed well and the pacing was perfect. It didn’t skip over details, but it also didn’t drag. I raced through this book because I just couldn’t put it down.

The Spirit Engineer is a riveting book. While it’s interesting from a historical standpoint, what really drew me in was the exploration of the human psyche because, when it comes right down to it, that’s much more fascinating and mysterious than anything supernatural.

Book Challenge: I’m a Sucker for…

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

I love this idea for a post! I was challenged by both Fantasy Book Nerd and The Swordsmith (two blogs you really should be following, by the way) to talk about a book trope that I’m a sucker for. Challenge accepted!

There are several tropes that are almost insta-reads for me, but I’m going to go with small groups involved with some sort of quest. You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t the the same as the “found family” trope?” The answer is, only sometimes. Sure, it can have that dynamic. It can either start out that way, or that found family trope can be a gradual development (I love that). Sometimes, though, certain members of the group don’t necessarily like or trust each other. Possibly they haven’t even met before. There is something brilliant about that. I think it takes a steady hand to write characters that work together without being particularly…

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Author Interview: Charles K. Jordan

Ta’Lin’s undead legions threatened to unravel everything until the combined might of Five Kingdoms adjusted to the nature of their foe and rallied to a tenuous stalemate.

Against the backdrop of a deadlocked war, life continues while the embers of well-laid schemes kindle into an inferno that will raze the continent so that it can be reborn.

Gaiaus, a well-connected Maximus of the highly-respected Oliverus family, is offered everything he could have hoped for but can’t help but wonder if promises made will be delivered. Never one to sit back and hope for the best, he bides his time, waiting for more palatable opportunities to present themselves.

Arcanus, the spoiled scion of the waning Dragonsbane family, disagrees with his father’s decision to send him far away to apprentice under a ruthless mentor from an infamous family after the details of his murder came to light.

Kir’Lor’s lavish lifestyle on the Consul of Five comes to an abrupt end when his father strips him of his political duties and reassigns him to the frontlines. Skeptical and unsatisfied with his new role, his options are expanded when a dangerous opportunity arises from an unlikely source.

A continent in crisis holds its collective breath as the threads of fate are woven into a new future.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Charles K. Jordan, author of Scourge of the Five Kingdoms.

Thank you for chatting with me!

First, will you tell me a little about Scourge of the Five Kingdoms?

To answer this question, I think it would be best to explain what exactly Scourge of the Five Kingdoms is and isn’t. The backdrop of the story is a decade-long war, but it is not a war story. There is a clear threat to the continent from the war, but there is no predestined hero to stop it. There is a lot of political intrigue and maneuvering, but it is not strictly a political thriller. The characters are developed already, so it is not a progression story. These characters have their goals, and many are at the zenith of their prowess. I almost hate to use the term, but it is, in a way, a throwback fantasy in the sense that the story does not focus on a hero, a journey, or an ancient artifact or prophecy. Several sapient races live on the continent in a tenuous peace despite their differences. Because of that, Scourge of the Five Kingdoms has a diverse, large ensemble cast. Also, magic is a common occurrence among the denizens and is treated like any other commodity. 

Scourge of the Five Kingdoms is part one of a six-book series with novellas and further works in the same world coming later. It is a mature series because it does contain content such as violence, alcohol, recreational vices, and non-graphic sexual encounters. If I were to suggest an appropriate age, I would feel comfortable saying 16 years and up would be apt.

What first inspired you to write? What drew you to writing fantasy?

I enjoyed fantasy as a kid. It started first with RPG games, but what made me a fantasy fan for life was the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. The series got me through some difficult times in my life. As I got older, I realized that getting to know those characters as well as I did, was just as influential for me as the actual story was.

Scourge of the Five Kingdoms seems rife with political maneuvering and backstabbing. What were some challenges to writing these complexities?

Making sure that characters behaved the way they would act and are not just taking actions for the sake of moving the plot. There were many times when I would stop writing and think to myself that this character wouldn’t do what I had plotted, and I would have to work out what moves that character would make. It broke lots of initial plot points while writing, but it made the story feel so much more organic, so it was well worth the trouble.

When working on your book, what came first for you: the plot or the characters?

Definitely the characters because their personal goals and quirks are what drive the plot. I wanted to create a story that was moved by the characters instead of the other way around. Even though, as I said before, they ruined my plans more times than I wish to remember.


What was the hardest part or character to write?

The hardest part of writing this series, especially the first book, was that I wanted a large cast. Keeping track of what characters knew, who they met, what they promised, what they were planning long and short-term was challenging at first. It took a lot of notes to make sure I kept it all on target.

Do you have a favorite character in your novel?

Ah, that is a difficult question. I am going to cheat and pick three characters. One, I enjoy the antics of Arcanus Dragonsbane. He is a tough character to like because he is a scumbag, but he is a great character to watch. He is a man of noble blood who has no understanding of how the world outside of his pampered bubble works and expects to be above the law. He is the mold of how I think nobles of a fantasy world would be. Two, Kir’Lor because his story deals a lot with his relationship with his father, Ang’Lor. I think it is a relatable tale for many. The last is Ta’Lin, the story’s main antagonist, who ties most of the characters together. He has some witty interactions with some characters. He is also the driving force behind the conspiracy threatening the Five Kingdoms. 

I feel the character relationships are so vital that interactions and chemistry between certain characters are characters themselves.

That’s an excellent point regarding character relationships! I often feel like a good interaction between characters can say a lot more about who each character really is than pages of explanation can. How do you go about developing that dialogue and the interactions between your characters?

As the characters feel each other out, you start to see bits of their personalities that you couldn’t plot before those interactions began. Again, I try to let my characters shine. That means not allowing myself to make characters interact in a way they ordinarily wouldn’t for the sake of advancing the plot or making things easier on myself as the writer. I also believe that some people click and some don’t, and trust often needs to be earned, and I try to bring that to life through my characters’ interactions. 

To answer your question more directly when characters meet for the first time, I ask myself several questions. Would these characters click? Why or why not? How comfortable are they around each other? What are their goals at the moment? Do they think the other characters can help their goals? And do they have any other issues such as prejudices, stereotypes, bad experiences with the characters’ backgrounds? And whatever else I feel would make a critical impact on their first impression. It seems like a lot, maybe it is a lot, but I think it produces terrific, natural-feeling interactions between the cast.

Is it easier for you to write a hero or a villainous character? Which is more fun?

One of the main ideas of the series is that almost everyone is a shade of gray. Most of the characters are horrible to some degree, so I would say it is probably easier for me to write a villainous or near-villainous character. There is one character that is the closest to an absolute “hero.” His name is Fortexxt Bynder. He was a challenge to write because he was such a change from the other characters in the world. However, with that being said, writing him was fun to write because of his moral compass.

I’m always curious: what is your favorite book (and you can absolutely say your own)?

I would have to say The Great Hunt, again, by Robert Jordan. To me, it is a near-perfect fantasy novel. It has an incredible balance of action and world-building, and even though you know the main heroes are not going to perish, it feels dangerous for them.

But my real hope is that someday, some author will say Scourge of the Five Kingdoms or some other book in the series is their favorite and inspired them to create as other authors inspired me.

Where to purchase Scourge of the Five Kingdoms:
Amazon

About the author:

Charles K. Jordan Bio
Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended
university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After
graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in
the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called
Japan home.
Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a
young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by
Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has
found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his
heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino,
Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that
fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to
create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.
Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He
would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.

The Half Killed by Quenby Olson

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Image result for half killedDorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape…

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Cover Reveal: We Break Immortals by Thomas Howard Riley

Banner Credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

Wow, I am beyond excited about this cover reveal! I’ve been waiting (rather impatiently) for the chance to read We Break Immortals and after seeing the cover, I’m even more excited to get my hands on it.

Before I show off the cover, how about I share the synopsis?

A drug addict who hunts sorcerers down by tracking their magick, the most renowned swordsman no one has ever heard of, and a thieving magick-wielding woman hellbent on revenge collide during a last ditch effort to stop an insane superhuman serial killer from making himself a god.

The Render Tracers always say magick users deserve to burn. Aren couldn’t agree more, Keluwen would beg to differ, and Corrin couldn’t care less either way.

In a world where most people use swords for protection, Aren uses tools that let him see what no one else can see, and he takes advantage of loopholes that can undo magick in order to stop the deadliest people in the world. He is a Render Tracer, relentlessly pursuing rogue sorcerers who bend the laws of physics to steal, assault, and kill. But his next hunt will lead him to question his entire life, plunging him into a world where he can’t trust anyone, not even his own eyes. 

When Keluwen finally escaped her fourthparents’ home and set out on her own to become a thief, she never thought she would one day be killing her own kind. She honed her magick on the streets, haunted by her past, hunted by Render Tracers, and feared by a society that hates what she is. Now she joins a crew of outcast magicians on a path of vengeance as they race to stop an insane sorcerer who has unlocked the source of all magick and is trying to use it to make himself a god. 

Corrin is a sword fighter first, a drinker second, and a…well, there must be something else he is good at. He’ll think of it if you give him enough time. He is a rogue for hire, and he has no special powers of any kind. The most magick he has ever done is piss into the wind without getting any on himself. He is terrible at staying out of trouble, and someone always seems to be chasing him. When he gets caught up in a multi-kingdom manhunt, he finds himself having to care about other people for a change, and he’s not happy about it. 

They are about to collide on the trail of a man who is impossible to catch, who is on the verge of plunging the world into ruin, and who can turn loyal people into traitors in a single conversation. They must struggle against their own obsessions, their fears, ancient prophecies, and each other. They will each have to balance the people they love against their missions, and struggle to avoid becoming the very thing they are trying to stop.

Are you ready for the cover?

Here it is!

Doesn’t it look awesome? Fantasy Book Nerd is responsible for the graphics that showed this amazing cover off.
Oh, and did I mention the maps? Beautiful maps! Take a look!

About the author:

Thomas Howard Riley currently resides in a secluded grotto in the wasteland metropolis, where he reads ancient books, plays ancient games, watches ancient movies, jams on ancient guitars, and writes furiously day and night. He sometimes appears on clear nights when the moon is gibbous, and he has often been seen in the presence of cats. 

He always wanted to make up his own worlds, tell his own stories, invent his own people, honor the truths of life, and explore both the light and the darkness of human nature. With a few swords thrown in for good measure. 

And some magick. Awesome magick. 

He can be found digitally at THOMASHOWARDRILEY.COM 

On Twitter he is @ornithopteryx, where he is sometimes funny, always clever, and never mean.

https://amzn.to/3hVPA3J Amazon US link

https://amzn.to/2UYvhtT Amazon UK link

https://bit.ly/3zU8qyq    Goodreads link

http://thomashowardriley.com  Author Website

Amazing Female Authors in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

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I like lists, so I wrote a (far from complete) list of amazing sff female authors. I don’t read as much science fiction as I like, so I went to an expert: Beth at Before We Go Blog. She reviews the coolest books, and interviews amazing authors! Check her blog out. Here are some fabulous writers to read, with titles of some of their work next to their names:
Author: NotableWorks:

*Katherine Arden- The Bear and the Nightingale

*Margaret Atwood- The Handmaid’s Tale; Angel Catbird (graphic novel)

*Holly Black- The Cruel Prince, The Spiderwick Chronicles (coauthor)

*Kendare Blake -Three Dark Crowns (series), Anna Dressed in Blood

*Anne Bishop- Daughter of the Blood

*Kristen Britain- Green Rider

*Emma Bull- War for the Oaks The Princess and the Lord of Night

*Octavia Butler- Parable of the Sower Dawn

*Jacqueline Carey- Kushiel’s Dart Starless

*Beth Cartwright- Feathertide

*Becky Chambers -The Long…

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The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Welcome to the Justice Academy – the galaxy’s best superhero college! Teen grifter Grey arrives at the school carrying a lie: he isn’t really tech heir Mirabor Gravane. At the first opportunity Grey plans to leave the Academy. That is until he makes the mistake of starting to like his fellow students. The Justice Academy promises to “equip you with the skills to be the hero the galaxy needs” and Grey is beginning to believe the hype. But as he takes more risks to protect his secret, events spiral out of his control. When the real Gravane is kidnapped, Grey and his new friends must come together to mount a rescue and defend a city from an attack by hostile super-powered aliens. If he is to succeed, or even survive, Grey must decide who he is, and does he want to be a superhero? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to…

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A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

This is the story of The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived…

Born into a post-war circus family, our nameless star was unwanted and forgotten, abandoned in the shadows of the big top. Until the bright light of Serendipity Wilson threw her into focus.

Now an adult, haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore, all in the hope of finding the child… But will her story be enough to bring the pair together again? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley and Quercus for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. A Girl Made of Air is available now.

I’m always fascinated by the idea of stories being told through collections of letters or diaries. The fact that this revolved around a circus was also intriguing. Ultimately, though, while A Girl Made of Air had a lot going for it, I found some things rather problematic.

The book follows Mouse, a famous tightrope walker, as she recounts her early life and the events that shaped her. She’s an interesting protagonist because the narration matures as the character does. The older she gets, the more complex and adult-sounding the narration becomes. It was a great detail, one that mirrors how people really develop. The book is peopled with distinctive characters: Marina, Mouse’s mother, Manu…and Serendipity Wilson, who is something else entirely. She is the bright light that Mouse is drawn to, and the story is viewed in relation to her. All of the characters were vivid and, in some cases, larger than life. They became almost caricatures of themselves, which was fascinating. I also think that was intentional and it gave the book a fantastical feel.

So, what did I find problematic? First of all, parts of the book felt repetitive. Some bits just didn’t really add to the story or character development at all and I found my attention wandering a bit. Secondly, and this is what really bothered me, is the unexpected rape scene. It was graphic and, as someone who prefers to avoid books with that sort of content, I really wish I’d known it was coming. As it was, I was blindsided and it really upset me. That being said, this isn’t something that will have a big effect on everyone. It just was something that dimmed the enjoyment of the book for me.

A Girl Made of Air meandered a little, but it was an interesting trip. At the end of the day, I’m not the right reader for this book. It would be much more enjoyable to readers who don’t mind a bit of harsh content and like a story with well developed characters.

Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun

As the sun sets, eerie contrails appear on the dome of the firmament, ghostly streaks that have replaced the stars that should fill the night sky. These “ribbons in the sky” appeared 70 years ago. Since that time, planet Arkos has experienced increasing climatic and seismic activity.

Jo’el is the director of the Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory, a high‑altitude astronomical facility situated atop its namesake. Tasked with finding a solution to this problem, he has concluded something outside the universe is tearing apart the very fabric of space‑time. He has also discovered a gateway to another universe. Sadly, any pathway to this portal has now become compromised.

The solution?

Go back in time and engineer a planetary exodus to the safe haven before it becomes inaccessible. It is a seemingly impossible task, but desperation is the mother of invention and the stuff of storytelling. Jo’el is not alone in this quest, with him are two lifelong friends, Chief Physician Kyros and Chief Psychology Officer Auberon. While only aware of Jo’el’s need for their support, they have a camaraderie born of trust that enables them to jump into the unknown knowing they will land safely.

Space‑time mechanics are outside the realm of Jo’el’s expertise. So, he has enlisted the aid of Prefect Godvina, head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. His plan is to meet with her, confirm his findings and proceed on with his friends. However, their meeting arouses the interest of Prefect Tarsus, Head of Intelligence. The unwanted scrutiny disrupts Jo’el’s plans. Now, the Director must improvise, and he reluctantly includes Godvina in the fold.

Are they successful in their travel back through time? Of course! Without it, there is no story, but how do they get there, what do they find and do they make good on Jo’el’s plan?

Mirror in Time will take you on a journey beyond the galaxy then to the ancient world of Ziem as a band of intrepid time travelers struggle to save existence.(taken from Amazon)

It’s Indie August! Indie August, for those who don’t know, is a month-long celebration of indie books. It’s the brainchild of LiteratureNLoFi, reader extraordinaire! If you aren’t following him, now is the perfect time to start. I’m excited to discuss great indie books, particularly Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun.

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Mirror in Time is available now.

If you’ve read and enjoyed other books by author D. Ellis Overttun, you’ll be happy (and probably unsurprised) to hear that Mirror in Time is incredibly unique and extremely well written. I am always a little uneasy with books involving time travel, but it was handled skillfully and made for a fascinating tale.

The pacing is fantastic, moving quickly without skipping over details. Mirror in Time avoids the dreaded info dump, instead letting things unfold naturally, with short explanations giving extra insight. The world (universe?) created is very different from ours, with subtle commonalities that allowed me to be fully immersed without ever feeling lost or confused. One thing that I appreciate about the science fiction genre is that there are literally no limits to what can be done. The amount of creativity infused into this book (indeed, in all of Overttun’s books) is astounding.

The characters are all great, although it’s the way they interact with each other that really makes them stand out. Their relationships put their unique personalities on full display, with their interactions allowing for excellent character growth.

I highly recommend reading all of D. Ellis Overttun’s books. That being said, Mirror in Time can absolutely be enjoyed without having read the other books. I won’t say too much else, for fear of spoiling anything. Suffice it to say, this is a book not to miss. Mirror of Time will appeal to fans of excellent science fiction, the sort of book that makes you think.

Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Image result for last memoria by rachel emma shawThere’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories. It robs people of their lives as surely as if she killed them, leaving behind only the husk of who they once were. Since Sarilla is one of the few with the ability to transfer memories, she’s highly prized by the king. He makes her take them from his people to keep them in line. All Sarilla wants is to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon. He hopes to use Sarilla to help get his stolen memories back, whether she wants to or not. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Last Memoria is available now.

It’s amazing how much is packed into this short book. I was sucked in from the…

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