Interview with an Author: Deck Matthews

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I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to join Beth from Beforewegoblog in interviewing fantasy author Deck Matthews.

First off, tell us a little bit about the Riven Realm series. 

The Riven Realm is an epic fantasy story told through a series of novellas. It’s a bit of a different approach to fantasy, a genre known for its massive, doorstop tomes—like the A Song of Ice and Fire books or basically anything by Tad Williams. I enjoy the big books and eventually hope to write a few myself, but the idea behind The Riven Realm books was to write in shorter, episodic installments.

My reasons for this are two-fold. First, I only write part-time. My full-time gig is working as a front-end web developer. Between that and my responsibilities as a husband and father, my time is finite. Working in smaller installments has allowed me to release at a more rapid rate (though still not as along as I’d like).

Secondly, as a reader I sometimes like a break from all the huge fantasy novels. My hope is that readers will be able to relax with a quick and entertaining read—sort of like streaming a quick episode of your favourite TV show instead of sitting down for a Lord of the Rings marathon!

I loved the way magic works in your books. How did your version come to exist, and did it change at all from its conception to the final draft? 

Thanks! The magic of Varkas started in the very first scene of my very first draft, in which I referred to a “Flameborn Prince.” Even as I wrote the words, I knew that this was the seed of the world’s magic system. The next chapter of that draft featured a young man who was “joined” to a raven, which was the beginning of what became melding magic.

I tend to be pretty organic with my initial drafting, so I just kind of let the magic evolve through the initial framework of the story. It was only later that I went back and started to codify the system, parsing the magic into six distinct forms and setting out the rules for each.

There’s still a lot to discover, too, and more about the magic will be revealed over time.
Were there any books or authors that inspired you to start writing? 

Absolutely. I started writing my very first fantasy novel shortly after first reading David Eddings’ series The Belgariad and The Mallorean. That novel was actually a co-authored effort with a friend, who was highly influenced by Terry Brooks’ Shannara books, so I picked those up next. In retrospect, Brooks ended up having an even greater influence on me as a writer!

What drew you to fantasy (either reading or writing it)? Do you have a favorite book? What do you love about it? 

That’s a great question. For me, I think the answer comes in several parts. Even as a very young kid, I tended to be drawn more toward the fantastic. My favourite toys and cartoon were Masters of the Universe, which has its roots in Sword & Sorcery and obvious influences from stories like Conan (though reworked for children, of course). There was just something about the sword-wielding hero that always appealed to me as a kid, and it’s stuck with me.

Beyond that, there’s a sense of escapism, a sort of juxtaposition against the rigours of our postmodern, hyper-connected and technology-saturated world that can be highly appealing to me.

Outside of the reading that I did while working on my literature degrees during the early 2000’s, I’d say that 85-90% of what I’ve read for leisure has been fantasy or science fiction. Even with science fiction, I tend to prefer universes like Star Wars, which are basically just space fantasy!

All of your characters are unique and stand out. Which character of yours was your favorite to write? Was any character harder to develop or write about?

I’m pretty much obliged to say that I like writing all my characters, aren’t I? I love them all in their own way. That being said, I do tend to find myself really enjoying the scenes written from the perspective of Palawen Ty. Despite her quiet personality, she does tend to be a bit rash and impulsive, which has led to some pretty fun action sequences!

Probably the most challenging character to write is Tiberius. Due to his blindness, I’m writing his perspective based on non-visual stimuli. He spends a fair bit of time in contemplation and conversation, which is relatively straightforward, but the few action sequences in which he finds himself presented a unique challenge.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? 

Hands down, the best money I ever spent was my purchase of Scrivener. It’s been a hugely beneficial application that has really helped refine my overall workflow.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

That’s a really interesting question, and I’m not sure that my answer will be the sort of thing that anyone might expect.

I used to dream in French.

I’m Canadian, and we have two official languages here—English and French. When I started school, my parents enrolled me in the French Immersion program, which saw me fully immersed in French during my school day. All my classwork and homework was in French, so I’d often spend six to eight hours a day reading, writing and/or conversing in French. It became such a part of me that it would occasionally become the language of my dreams.

I don’t use French nearly as much anymore, and I haven’t dreamed in that language since I was a kid, but the experience has remained with me. For me, it’s a remarkable example of just how tightly language is bound up in our consciousness!

What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult) 

I’ve worked on a range of different characters. In The Riven Realm, my primary characters are a range of different ages. Caleb and Palawen are both young adults, while Carvesh, Avendor, and Shade are all in their 30’s. Tiberius’ is 62.

Later this year, I’ll be releasing a new novel I wrote for my daughters. It’s titled The Portal of Tears: Beyond the Shimmering, and tells the story of thirteen-year-old Trisha Banymor.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? 

For sure. My larger vision for Varkas as a whole is to build it as a broader fictional world, almost like Dragonlance or Star Wars. The events of The Riven Realm are only one of the stories I plan to tell. I plan to build connections between these stories. At the moment, astute readers find small connections between the novellas and the current short stories. More connections will develop over time, too.

Finally, if you had a dinner party and could invite three people, alive, dead or fictional, who would they be?

The grandparents I’ve lost—my paternal grandfather and both grandmothers—in full health. I lost both paternal grandparents before I published my books, and my maternal grandmother’s health was already failing. I’d love to be able to talk with them more about it.

But more than anything, I’d just want one more chance to say “I love you.”

Amazon.com: The First of Shadows (The Riven Realm Book 1) eBook ...

Impostures by Al-Hariri (translated by Michael Cooperson)

Impostures (Library of Arabic Literature Book 65) - Kindle edition ...

Fifty rogue’s tales translated fifty ways

An itinerant con man. A gullible eyewitness narrator. Voices spanning continents and centuries. These elements come together in Impostures, a groundbreaking new translation of a celebrated work of Arabic literature.

 Impostures follows the roguish Abū Zayd al-Sarūjī in his adventures around the medieval Middle East—we encounter him impersonating a preacher, pretending to be blind, and lying to a judge. In every escapade he shows himself to be a brilliant and persuasive wordsmith, composing poetry, palindromes, and riddles on the spot. Award-winning translator Michael Cooperson transforms Arabic wordplay into English wordplay of his own, using fifty different registers of English, from the distinctive literary styles of authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf, to global varieties of English including Cockney rhyming slang, Nigerian English, and Singaporean English.

Featuring picaresque adventures and linguistic acrobatics, Impostures brings the spirit of this masterpiece of Arabic literature into English in a dazzling display of translation. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available for purchase now.

When I read the description of Impostures, I immediately thought of a comedic play and I think that colored my expectations a little. It was far from what I expected, and I feel very lucky to have read this enthralling book.

One of the fascinating things about this book is the number of styles translator Michael Cooperson uses: from Shakespeare to Twain, and everything in between. It was so very cool! I don’t know anything about the original text, aside from what is spoken of in the introduction, so I don’t know how closely Cooperson stuck to the original, but I could tell he put a lot of effort into keeping the spirit of it, so to speak.

It did take me a while to get through this book. It’s what I call a “smart read,” meaning it was difficult for me to focus on it during the noisy parts of my day (I have a toddler tornado). Much of what made this an intriguing read was the brilliant way language was used throughout.

Readers who like the feel of language as much as the dialogue in a story will like this book. There’s something about it that feels very special. I’m struggling to put what I mean into words, but it’s more than just a collection of stories. It’s incredibly unique and I wish I could have read this with other (smarter-than-me) people, just to have the opportunity to discuss its nuances.

This is one of those books that I’m glad I read, but will probably not read again. Some books are like that. I fully enjoyed it,  and recommend it to anyone who likes to stretch their reading muscles and try something different.

Giveaway!

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Hi, everybody! I think we can all agree that 2020 has not been our friend. In fact, it’s been a load of awful. However, I recently achieved an unexpected and amazing milestone. It made my day (week, month) and I’d love to spread a little of that happiness to other people. This is my long-winded way of saying I’m doing a giveaway. I’ll be giving away four $25 Amazon gift cards next Friday.

As much as I love interacting with people on Twitter, it’s all the wonderful people who talk about books with me that I really want to show extra appreciation for. That’s you all! So, you don’t need to share this on Twitter, or do a tap dance (although that would be awesome), or anything like that. To enter, just comment below and tell me what book you’d use it on. I mean, unless you plan on using it on a toaster or something. Totally your prerogative. I just need a comment below so I know to enter your name into the giveaway. I’ll draw randomly, and let you know if you win- so check back next week!

Thank you all for making 2020 booktastic (yep, I’m making up words now)!

Amazing Female Authors in Fantasy and Science Fiction

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Guess what’s happening in July? The Fantasy Hive is hosting a month-long readathon for women in science fiction and fantasy. It’s going to be epic. 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:                                                                                                    Notable Works: 

*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 Way to a Small, Angry Planet

*C.J. Cherryh                                                                                   Downbelow Station                                                                                                                                The Pride of Chanur

* Cassandra Clare                                                                        The Mortal Instruments (series)                                                                                             The Magisterium Chronicles (coauthor)

*Susanna Clarke                                                                        Jonathan Strange and Mr.                                                                                                                                        Norrell

*Susan Cooper                                                                                 The Dark is Rising series

*Delilah S. Dawson                                                          (Star Wars) Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire                                                                                                         Kill the Farm Boy (coauthor)

*Sarah Douglass                                                                       The Wayfarer Redemption trilogy

*Emily A. Duncan                                                                             Wicked Saints

*Kate Elliott                                                                                        King’s Dragon
Cold Magic

*Jennifer Fallon                                                                     Medalon (The Demon Child trilogy)
The Immortal Prince (the Tide Lord series)

*Cordelia Funke                                                                                Inkheart
Reckless (coauthor)

*Christie Golden                                                      Fate of the Jedi series (contributing author)
Vampire of the Mists (Ravenloft series)

*Alix A. Harrow                                                               The Ten Thousand Doors of January                                                                                                                  The Once and Future Witches

*Elizabeth Haydon                                                                          Rhapsody: Child of Blood

*Heid Heilig                                                                                     The Girl From Everywhere
For a Muse of Fire

*Robin Hobb                                                                Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer trilogy #1)
Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1)

*Kameron Hurley                                                  The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1)

*P.D James                                                                                            The Children of Men

*N.K Jemisin                                                               The Fifth Season (Broken Earth series #1)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
*J.V. Jones                                                                         The Baker’s Boy (The Book of Words #1)
*S. Kaeth                                                                                            Windward
*Catherine Kerr                                                                             Daggerspell (Deverry Cycle #1)
*Katherine Kurtz                                                                              Deryni Rising
*Mercedes Lackey                                                      The Oathbound (Vows and Honor book 1)
The Black Gryphon
*Madeline L’Engle                                                                          A Wrinkle in Time
*Ursula Le Guin                                                      A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle)
The Dispossessed
*Anne Leckie                                                                                  The Raven Tower
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch trilogy #1)
*Laura Loup                                                                                    The Audacity
*Devin Madson                                                                               We Ride the Storm
*Juliet Marillier                                                                               Daughter of the Forest
Wolfskin
*Anne McCaffrey                                                                            A Diversity of Dragons
Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern book #1)
*Seanan McGuire                        Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children series, book 1)
Middlegame
*Robin McKinley                                                                          The Hero and the Crown
Chalice
*Erin Morgenstern                                                                       The Night Circus
The Starless Sea
*Jennifer A. Nielson                                                                     The Traitor’s Game
The False Prince (the Ascendance trilogy, book 1)
*Naomi Novik                                                                                Uprooted
His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, book 1)
*Nnedi Okorafor                                                                              Zahrah the Windseeker                                                                                                                        Binti
*Tamora Pierce                                      Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles #1)                                                                                Trickster’s Choice (Daughter of the Lioness #1)
*Suzie Plakson                                                                                The Return of King Lillian

 

*Victoria Schwab                                               A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
The Near Witch
*Mary Shelley                                                                                 Frankenstein
The Last Man
*Mary Stewart                                                            The Crystal Cave (The Arthurian Saga #1)
*James Tiptree Jr.                                                                         Brightness Falls from the Air
*Karen Traviss                                                                              City of Pearl
Star Wars Republic Commando: Hard Contact
*Joan D. Vinge                                                                              The Snow Queen
Ladyhawke
*Thea Von Harbou                                                                      Metropolis
*Jo Walton                                                                                    Tooth and Claw
*Margaret Weis                                                              Dragons of Autumn Twilight (coauthor)
Forging the Darksword (Darksword trilogy #1, coauthor)
*Martha Wells                                                                            The Element of Fire
All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)
*Connie Willis                                                                            Doomsday Book
*Patricia C. Wrede                   Dealing with Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1)
Shadow Magic (Lyra series #1)
*Janny Wurts                                     Curse of the Mistwraith (Wars of Light and Shadow #1)
That Way Lies Camelot
*Jane Yolen                                                                                  The Young Merlin trilogy
Sister Light, Sister Dark (Great Alta Saga #1)

Whew! Needless to say, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talented female sff authors. Who did I forget?

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller- Book Review and Thoughts on the Show

Amazon.com: Cursed (9781534425330): Wheeler, Thomas, Miller, Frank ...

Whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true King.

But what if the Sword has chosen a Queen?

Nimue grew up an outcast. Her connection to dark magic made her something to be feared in her Druid village, and that made her desperate to leave…

That is, until her entire village is slaughtered by Red Paladins, and Nimue’s fate is forever altered. Charged by her dying mother to reunite an ancient sword with a legendary sorcerer, Nimue is now her people’s only hope. Her mission leaves little room for revenge, but the growing power within her can think of little else.

Nimue teams up with a charming named Arthur and refugee Fey Folk from across England. She wields a sword meant for the one true king, battling paladins and the armies of a corrupt king. She struggles to unite her people, avenge her family, and discover the truth about her destiny.

But perhaps the one thing that can change Destiny itself is found at the edge of a blade. (taken from Amazon)

Raw and visceral, this book jumps straight into the action and doesn’t let up. This is a new take on the usual Arthurian characters and the changes are creative. Thomas Wheeler strays just enough from the original mythos to create something new, while staying close enough that the characters are still recognizable. Frank Miller adds something different with his illustrations. I should have loved this book. I liked it, but it didn’t end up reaching the “amazing” threshold for me.

The reason it didn’t shoot to the top of my “favorite 2020 books” list happens to be the same reason I’m incredibly excited to see the Netflix show: it’s a very visual book. Each scene was separate and distinct, but they didn’t necessarily flow together into one complete narrative. Instead, they were more like choppy vignettes. This has the potential to make a perfect fantasy show, because the visual scenes will move more naturally into a complete story-line. Plus, the book is chock-full of fight scenes which will be epic, if choreographed well.

The book follows Nimue, although Arthur, Merlin, Morgan, and other Arthurian regulars are also involved. I honestly think Merlin was my favorite character. He usually is, anyway, but what Wheeler did with his character was unique and interesting. I actually got annoyed when the story jumped away from him. Nimue is hardcore in this book, and Morgan is devious, smart, and honestly a wee bit creepy.

Really, the only thing that gave me pause about this book was the choppiness. There were several times where I thought I’d skipped a page by accident because a chapter or paragraph ended so abruptly. It made it difficult to be fully immersed in the story. The bones of the book are brilliant though, and I’m hopeful that the TV show will be fantastic.

This is one of the very rare times where I don’t necessarily recommend reading the book before watching the show. I feel icky writing this, but (gulp!) I think the show has the potential to be better.

 

 

 

 

The Last to Die by Kelly Garrett

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Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words―something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.

So everything is okay―until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her―and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed. (taken from Amazon)

This was an oh dear book for me. The premise – a small group of friends, and the murderer is one of them – seemed interesting, but it lacked something in the execution. I’ll try to put my issues with this book into words, but please bear with me. My train of thought often jumps its track.

I will say that the author made a gutsy choice: not a single character is remotely likeable. I’m pretty sure that was deliberate. It was tough to read a book filled with horrible people, though. The closest thing to a decent character is the main character’s sister, Maggie. Unfortunately, she was side character who wasn’t in the book nearly enough to balance the feeling of ick the other characters ooze.

As horrible as the characters all are, the main character is the absolute worst. Her internal dialogue is filled with scathing insults of her “friends,” she starts fights, frequently thinks about ways she can make people mad, and is flat-out horrible. One line in the book reads, “Nah, she wouldn’t kill herself. No way. She’d find some other way to get revenge.” How flipping awful is that? I think that line was the breaking point for me. I can’t stand when books imply suicide-as-revenge. That trope needs to go. I kept reading in the hope that one of the characters would grow a moral compass, but it never fully happened.

In this book, a group of privileged, bored teens take turns breaking into each other’s houses on a dare. They steal from their rich parents and get a rush out of it. Eventually, that starts to bore them too, so they decide to steal from someone outside their clique. That leads to murder, and suddenly anyone in the group could be next. The final motive felt a little forced to me. I couldn’t figure out what the impetus was, everything switched up so quickly.

I will say that the author’s idea was an interesting one. It just really didn’t work for me. As much as I can understand why this book might be enjoyable for many people, there were too many things that rankled at me. I won’t go out of my way to read anything else by this author, although I wish her the best of luck with this book and her writing career.

The Oddmire, Book 2: The Unready Queen by William Ritter


The Oddmire, Book 2: The Unready Queen - Kindle edition by Ritter ...

Human-raised brothers Tinn and Cole join forces with Fable, daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, to stop the fighting between the people of Endsborough and the creatures of the Wild Wood before violence turns into all-out war.  

Human and goblin brothers Cole and Tinn are finding their way back to normal after their journey to the heart of the Oddmire. Normal, unfortunately, wants nothing to do with them. Fable, the daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, has her first true friends in the brothers. The Queen allows Fable to visit Tinn and Cole as long as she promises to stay quiet and out of sight—concealing herself and her magic from the townspeople of Endsborough.

But when the trio discovers that humans are destroying the Wild Wood and the lives of its creatures for their own dark purposes, Fable cannot stay quiet. As the unspoken truce between the people of Endsborough and the inhabitants of the Wild Wood crumbles, violence escalates, threatening war and bringing Fable’s mother closer to the fulfillment of a deadly prophecy that could leave Fable a most Unready Queen.

In this second book in the Oddmire series, the New York Times bestselling author of Jackaby takes readers on an adventure full of monsters, mayhem, and magic. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Kelly Doyle at Algonquin Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase on June twenty third.

After reading and loving The Oddmire: ChangelingI couldn’t wait to read The Unready Queen. The series continues wonderfully, combining the fantastical with the everyday wonder of childhood.

Cole and Tinn are still a large part of this book, but Fable takes center stage this time. Oh, wow, I love that character! She has a self-confidence and a desire to believe the best of everybody that is refreshing. Each character is nuanced, and Fable is no exception. She doesn’t feel ready to take on the responsibilities her mom is training her for, completely unaware that her unique way of doing things is exactly what the Wild Wood needs.

Of course, Tinn and Cole each have their own obstacles. Tinn is learning how to be a goblin after discovering that he is, in fact, a goblin changeling. More importantly, he’s learning how to be himself, without fading into his brother’s shadow. Cole, on the other hand, is learning that there are places his brother goes where he can’t follow. He is discovering how to be his own person. I really love Tinn in particular. He reminds me of my oldest in many ways.

As with the first book, a lot of attention is paid to relationships. I absolutely love that both the boys’ mom and Fable’s mom are very involved in this book. Not only that, it’s apparent that they are caring and involved, subverting the “hero alone” trope. From an adult standpoint, I love seeing positive relationships between parents and children in literature.

The fantasy aspect of this book is epic. Spriggins, and goblins, and hinkypunks, oh my! I adored the sheer variety of fantasy creatures that show up in these books. It’s not often that I read a book that includes hinkypunks. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The adventure is fabulous, the story moves quickly, and there’s never a dull moment.

This series is so much fun! William Ritter is an excellent author (I highly recommend the Jackaby series to adults) and I can’t wait to see what happens as the Oddmire adventures continue.

Listening: Interviews, 1970-1989

Listening: Interviews, 1970–1989: Cott, Jonathan: 9781517909017 ...

“All I really need to do is simply ask a question,” Jonathan Cott occasionally reminds himself. “And then listen.” It sounds simple, but in fact few have taken the art of asking questions to such heights—and depths—as Jonathan Cott, whom Jan Morris called “an incomparable interviewer,” one whose skill, according to the great interviewer and oral historian Studs Terkel, “is artless yet impassioned and knowing.” 

Collected here are twenty-two of Cott’s most illuminating interviews that encourage readers to listen to film directors and musicians, actors and writers, scientists and visionaries. These conversations affirm the indispensable and transformative powers of the imagination and offer us new ways to view these lives and their worlds. What is it like to be Bob Dylan making a movie? Carl Sagan taking on the cosmos? Oliver Sacks doctoring the soul? John Lennon, on December 5, 1980? Elizabeth Taylor, ever? From Chinua Achebe to Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), Federico Fellini to Werner Herzog, and Oriana Fallaci to Studs Terkel, Listening takes readers on a journey to discover not ways of life but ways to life. Within these pages,Cott proves himself to be, in the words of Brain Pickings’s Maria Popova, “an interlocutor extraordinaire,” drawing candid insights and profound observations from these inspired and inspiring individuals. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available for purchase now.

I’ll be honest: I’d never heard of Johnathan Cott before. I was simply intrigued by the idea of the book. I love watching documentaries that provide inside views on the subject’s thoughts and feelings, and this seemed like it might be along those lines.

I found it to be incredibly interesting. The information Johnathan Cott was able to draw from his interviewees was amazing. There was no surface stuff: rather, Cott steered things in a far more persona direction. It was never boring, although like many collections, some interviews were better than others. I actually preferred the interviews with people I hadn’t heard much about before.

It is quite obvious that Cott put a lot of time and effort into his interviews. His questions were smart- it didn’t seem like he expected any particular answer: rather, he let the conversation go where it willed. And it was definitely more of a conversation than I’m used to in interviews. It took me a bit to get used to the amount of input Cott had in the interviews, but I ended up really liking it. It added an extra layer of authenticity.

Give this book a go!

American Fairy Tales by L. Frank Baum

American Fairy Tales by L. Frank Baum, Fiction, Fantasy, Fairy ...

From the vivid imagination of L. Frank Baum, the visionary who created the legendary Wizard of Oz series, comes American Fairy Tales, a collection of 12 modern fables and fantasies. These magnificent stories are doorways into fantastic settings beyond the dreams of most. Baum took us over the rainbow into the wonderful land of Oz; now join him on other fantastic adventures including The Box of Robbers, The Glass Dog, The Queen of Quok, The Girl Who Owned A Bear, The Enchanted Types, The Laughing Hippopotamus, The Magic Bon Bons, The Capture of Father Time, The Wonderful Pump, The Dummy that Lived, The King of The Polar Bears, and The Mandarin and The Butterfly. They are fantastic, one-of-a-kind fairy tales that could only come from the mind of this renowned storyteller. (taken from Amazon)

Confession time! I don’t like the Oz books, and I hate the Wizard of Oz movie. I’ve never had any desire to read anything else by Baum at all. I wouldn’t have even considered picking this collection up, except that it was assigned for my Children’s Literature class. I am so, so glad that it was!

This book is chock full of odd, fun little stories. Each tale has a little “moral” added to the end, which made it so very charming. The stories are short, with just enough detail to leave room for the reader to fill in the gaps. Baum did a wonderful job of writing about the fantastical as if it were everyday experiences he was recounting.

I loved all of the short stories, but my favorite was The King of the Polar Bears. I loved the cross between natural animalistic behavior, and the behavior of a monarch. The way the story ended was perfect. I also really enjoyed The Capture of Father Time. I’ve read several books over the years that involved the capture of Death, but this is the first I’ve read that discussed the ramifications of time standing still. It was such a cool idea!

I was pleasantly surprised by this book and plan to read it again in the future. I recommend this story collection for the young and the young-at-heart.

 

Eight Bookish Awards for the First Half of 2020

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I’m pretty sure everyone could use some good right about now. Something to cheer us up, or distract us a teensy bit. Joe at Black Sail Books came up with a fantastic idea: why wait until the end of the year to celebrate some awesome books? Let’s talk about some of our favorite books so far this year! He runs a truly amazing blog, which you can find here. If you’re not already following him, you should drop everything and go do that. I’ll wait.

Let’s hand out some awards, shall we?

1. MVB (The Most Valuable Book Award)
Awarded to the book that has been my favorite so far, one that has stuck with me. The winner is…

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

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Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.2. My services are confidential.3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal–I’m human myself. But after what happened, to the magic, it’s not the humans who need my help. (taken from Amazon)

Everything about this book is just awesome. The main character, Fetch, is a Sam-Spade type in a fantasy world. You’d think it wouldn’t work, but it does. Brilliantly. This was one of the first books I read in 2020: it started my reading year off with a bang and gave me a wicked book hangover. I’ve waxed enthusiastic about the it here. Read this book. You won’t be sorry.

Honorable Mentions: The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs and Feathertide by Beth Cartwright.

2. The Narrative Genius Award
Awarded to the book whose narration was unique and added an extra level to the book. The winner is…

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore

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I was home alone on a Saturday night when I experienced the most beautiful piece of music I had ever heard in my life.

Beautiful Remorse is the hot new band on the scene, releasing one track a day for ten days straight. Each track has a mysterious name and a strangely powerful effect on the band’s fans.

A curious music blogger decides to investigate the phenomenon up close by following Beautiful Remorse on tour across Texas and Kansas, realizing along the way that the band’s lead singer, is hiding an incredible, impossible secret. (taken from Amazon)

This book is deliciously bizarre. The narrator adds to the feeling of falling down the rabbit hole, so to speak. Seeing him go from dubious to terrified makes the book that much more memorable. You can read my original post on the book here, if you are so inclined.

Honorable Mentions: The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

3. The Comfort Zone Expansion Award
Awarded to the book that helped me step out of my comfort zone and appreciate a new type of story. The winner is…

Thornhill by Pam Smy

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Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past. (taken from Amazon)

I don’t often read graphic novels. There’s something about them that my brain just can’t follow. I suspect it has to do with my epilepsy.  I was able to read this book, though. I think maybe the fact that the pictures weren’t colored, combined with the lack of speech bubbles is what worked. At any rate, I loved it! You can read my original review here.

Honorable mentions: Fences by August Wilson and Craigslist Confessional: A Collection of Secrets from Anonymous Strangers by Helena Dea Bala

4. The “They Are Who We Thought They Were” Award: 
Awarded to the book that I tried, knowing it was outside my comfort zone that ended up being what I thought it was.

One? by Jennifer L. Cahill

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It’s London in the mid-noughties before Facebook, iPhones and ubiquitous wifi.
Zara has just moved to London for her first real job and struggles to find her feet in a big city with no instruction manual. Penelope works night and day in an investment bank with little or no time for love. At twenty-eight she is positively ancient as far as her mother is concerned and the pressure is on for her to settle down as the big 3-0 is looming. Charlie spends night and day with his band who are constantly teetering on the verge of greatness. Richard has relocated to London from his castle in Scotland in search of the one, and Alyx is barely in one place long enough to hold down a relationship let alone think about the future. One? follows the highs and lows of a group of twenty-somethings living in leafy SW4. (taken from Amazon)
Let me first say: this was not a bad book. I just don’t read lighter fiction. I stepped outside my comfort zone to give this one a go and was reminded that this genre really isn’t my thing. However, if you like lighter, romantic fiction, you’ll enjoy this book.

Honorable mentions: no others considered

5. The New to Me Award
Awarded to the book that introduced me to a new author that I’ve fallen in love with. The winner is…

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

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In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s propulsive epic fantasy.
War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.
Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.
In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.
In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.
And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.
As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood. (taken from Amazon)

Wow, Devin Madson can write! I need to read everything she’s ever written, and everything she writes from here on out. I heard this book was great: man, was that an understatement! You can read my original review here.

Honorable Mentions: Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall and Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

7. The MVC (Most Valuable Character) Award: 
Awarded to the character who represented the make-or-break point in a book I liked. The winner is..

The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs

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A mixtape of Friday Night Lights, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and early ’90s nostalgia blasting through fifteen-inch speakers.

After Marcus Brinks left mysteriously two decades ago, financial ruin and his dying mother brought him back to his hometown of Rome, Alabama. Brinks, the former lead singer of ’90s indie-rock band Dear Brutus, takes a job teaching at his old school, where years ago, he and his friend, Jackson, conspired to get Deacon, the starting quarterback and resident school jerk, kicked off the football team.

Now it’s Jackson, head coach of Rome, who rules the school like Caesar, while Deacon plots his demise. This time Brinks refuses to get involved, opting instead for a quiet life with Becca, his high school crush. But will dreams of domestic black go up in flames when the repercussion of the past meet the lying, cheating, and blackmail of the present? (taken from Amazon)

Chad Alan Gibbs created the perfect characters for this book. It could have gone in an overtly smushy (that’s a word, right?) or angst-ridden direction, but instead Gibbs’ characters brought both heart and humor to this book. Silas, in particular, made The Rome of Fall a joy to read. This is easily one of my favorite books this year. Check out my review here .

Honorable Mentions: Rizzel in Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall and Fable in The Unready Queen by William Ritter.

8. The Audio Hero Award:
Awarded to the narrator who brought the audio book to life. The winner is…

You tell me! 
I don’t listen to audio books. I can’t concentrate enough (also, it’s way too noisy most of the time, since I have kids at home). What book do you think wins this award?

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There it is! According to my Goodreads, which I’m trying to be better at updating, I’ve read 70 books this year. These ones have found a place in my heart. I hope you give them a go. What books would you give these awards to?