Monday, January 25, 2016

Cover Reveal: Darkened Hope


Ayianna is a cursed half-elf betrothed to Desmond, but her heart belongs to another. After discovering the cure for the Sorceress's curse, she and her companions embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the ingredients. 

When dragons descend upon their party, Ayianna realizes the Sorceress is searching not just for the corrupted dagger, but a human sacrifice that will open a portal to the underworld. Battling deadly creatures and natural disasters, Ayianna is forced more and more to confront her insecurities and conflicted heart.

Now she must decide whether to be true to her family or true to herself. As the nations rally for war, betrayal threatens to destroy them all, and it's a race against time to return before the curse devastates the plains people.

Coming in May 2016

Author bio:

Writing as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with a wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril. She has two short stories published in The Clockwork Dragon anthology, and four short stories set in the world of Nälu. Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award, and its sequel, Darkened Hope is coming May 2016.

Stay up-to-date with all things Nälu and her journey as a writer mama at Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest.


Secrets Kept, the first book in the Hidden Dagger Trilogy will be on sale for .99

The short story, A Princess No More, will be free.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Book Review: Forged Steel

Today's Book Review is Forged Steel, by H.A. Titus.

From the "Back of the book:"

"Downtown. Coffee shop. 2 AM.
One minute, Josh is firing off sarcastic remarks at his best friend Marc – the next, they’re running from shape-shifters. Apparently, even best friends don’t share all their secrets.
Now Josh is in danger. He can see the monsters among the humans.
When Marc is kidnapped, Josh finds himself pulled into the schemes of the fae courts, and throws in his lot with Marc’s allies: the lovely Larae, a human named David, and the fighter, Eliaster. But what began as a rescue mission becomes something much more involved…
And all Josh wants to do is get out before it’s too late."

I haven't read much urban fantasy, but what I have read, I like. You get all the fun of 'traditional' fantasy, but none of the cliched settings, food, etc.

There's several fun things about this book. For one, instead of the usual Brittish/German fairy-world most fantasies draw from, the world of Forged Steel is influenced by Irish folklore. This mixes things up a little and adds a lot of flavor. Another thing is Josh's reactions. In most stories, the main character just up and joins in on the adventure. The main way authors like to mix this up is to have him not want to go at all. Josh's reaction is to freak out. Hey, no matter how cool you think you are, if you saw people using movie-style magic for real right in front of you, you'd freak out too. After that, he tries his best to do the right thing.

The other characters are well done too. Eliaster is the 'white-knight' type, but he's also secretive. Larae comes across as part love interest role, part sidekick, yet right from the start you get the feeling that something's not quite right about her, but you can't quite put a finger on what.

The plot is fun and engaging, Josh gets pulled in and has to help his friend/flee for his life. As stated above, I really like how this is done. Josh joining the fae to help Marc feels natural and not forced. He's neither too reluctant, nor too gung-ho about the situation. It's balanced just right so it sucks you in and immerses you in the story.

The only complaints I have are minor technical things. In one scene, Josh writes a computer program. No problem. He's a computer geek, and it's established he has experience doing this. My problem is two-fold. 1. He writes the computer program in a word processor. This is laughable. 2. He writes the program because they need to desperately get buried information off a hard drive. Okay, there are programs that do this.... and that's the problem. There are programs that do this. Any self-respecting geek keeps a USB full of handy utilities with them. There's no need to write a program from scratch when you can just go download one. Especially when you're in a hurry. And/or when the information is critical. You don't want to be finding and fixing bugs when the data you're working on is real and important. You use test data you don't care about for that.

But, it's a minor issue, and bugs me 'cause I've spent ten years in tech support. Most people won't notice it, and it doesn't break the story.

The other issue I have is that Josh learns to use a sword because it's fantasy, and swords are cool. I don't have a problem with that either. Swords are cool. The issue comes in because they have guns. A guy with a sword knocks a gun out of Josh's hand when Josh freezes and can't shoot him. I don't have experience here, but I've read that most people do freeze when facing the possibility of killing someone when they've never killed before. This scene is nicely done, and adds to the realism of the story. The problem is that another character tells him that guns are no good for close-range fighting and swords are loads better. That just isn't true. There's a reason that guns replaced swords.

Still, minor problems.

I really liked the book, and can't wait for the next installment. Four stars!

Bonus: Listen to some friends and I interview the author.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book Review: Dragonfriend

Today's book review, Dragonfriend, Marc Secchia

From the "Back of the Book:"

"Stabbed. Burned by a dragon. Abandoned for the windrocs to pick over. The traitor Ra’aba tried to silence Hualiama forever. But he reckoned without the strength of a dragonet’s paw, and the courage of a girl who refused to die.

Only an extraordinary friendship will save Hualiama’s beloved kingdom of Fra’anior and restore the King to the Onyx Throne. Flicker, the valiant dragonet. Hualiama, a foundling, adopted into the royal family. The power of a friendship which paid the ultimate price.

This is the tale of Hualiama Dragonfriend, and a love which became legend."

Lia is a royal ward - the adopted daughter of the king. At the beginning of the book the traitor throws her out of a dirigible. She's saved by a dragonet, and it's the start of a beautiful friendship.

The plot is fairly standard for fantasy, but the focus is on the characters. Specifically, the relationships between Lia and her dragon friends. This was a really fun read that I completely enjoyed.

Secchia has created a rich world with a nice take on dragons here. The dragons aren't the traditional evil, nor the modern super-friendly, but instead have a complex society of their own. It was really fun spending time with them, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

If there was one flaw, it was with the plotting. It does move a little slowly. I don't mind this, because the book is character driven, and most of the time is spent developing and exploring relationships. I love books like this when it's done right, and Dragonfriend does it very well. There are a few fight scenes to keep the political plot and mystery surrounding Lia going, but, if you're expecting action packed, it's not.

Four stars, easy. Possibly five if the next books in the series are just as good or better.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: Shatterwold

Today's book review: Shatterworld, by Lelia Rose Foreman

From the "Back of the book":

"Fleeing persecution and low on fuel, religious refugees from Old Earth find themselves stranded on a planet with a dark history. The promise of a future is shadowed by a dreadful past. Twelve-year-old Rejoice Holly is expected to someday become a farmer's wife, and set aside her dreams of astronomy. But the discovery that their Promised Land is already inhabited isn't helping her struggle between duty and dreams. Peace seems precarious, and the voice of reason is being silenced by one of fear.

As a new danger looms, the friendship or enmity forged could save or doom them all. Will the colonists and natives be able to set aside their differences for the sake of survival?"

So, basically we have here, "What if the Pilgrims happened in the future, and instead of coming to America, they went to a different planet?"
Most of the characters are the stereotypical Puritan types, follow the rules to the point of legalism, don't listen to the kids, do your job, etc. The main character, Rejoice, is a teen girl who wants to study astronomy. Most of the adults don't see how that would help the colony at all, so she's "encouraged" to pursue something "useful."

The neatest part of the book are the aliens. One of the challenges to the status quo of the colony is that the world is inhabited. Foreman did a great job with the aliens, they're actually alien. No "lets slap some putty on his nose and call him an alien" here (I get why Star Trek did it, but why do so many books? Sure, you can still have a compelling story that way, but it's nice to explore a world where imagination is let loose and you can actually explore the "what if's" of what alien life would look like.)

I don't want to spoil the ending, but Rejoice gets to use her passions for practical purposes, and everyone learns some lessons along the way.

This was a fun read, and I really enjoyed it. Four stars.