Interview: Kelly Michelle Baker, Author of The Waters of Nyra

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Folks, please give a warm welcome to author Kelly Michelle Baker. We spend some quality time talking about one of my favorite things – biology! But we also chat about some of my other favorite things like Harry Potter, fantasy authors, Ken Follett’s World Without End, and plenty more. Enjoy!

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Books are time capsules. They often reflect the era in which they were written. If Tolkien were to compose The Lord of the Rings today, would it be different? Maybe not the core messages, but the setting and characters might have subtle 2015 traits vs. the 1930’s and 40’s. Hobbits shaped a world far outside Middle Earth. It’s become an almost tangible piece of civilization, still pervasive over 60 years later. Tolkien’s an outstanding example, but far from alone. Take Harry Potter. The boy wizard turned non-readers into bibliophiles and put adults in the children’s section of Barnes and Nobel. Everyone knows Harry. It’s been almost 20 years since The Philosopher’s Stone was first published yet it’s the gift that keeps on giving; an upcoming stage play, a spin-off film franchise, bonus publications by Rowling through the online interface Pottermore, etc. Fans are just as jazzed as ever (myself included). Where we’d be without Harry is hard to envision. Personally, I think the explosion of young adult readerships would be a bit paler. Cash-cows like Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Unwind, and The Maze Runner would exist but, without flying on Harry’s coattails (or Nimbus 2000), be far less lucrative.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

1) David Clement-Davies. I went with him on a Kickstarter quest once, but perhaps one day we can do something more exciting. He too writes about dragons. David has one of those lyrical voices caught between prose and poetry, and he can play it out through animals. He weaves dark worlds and darker psychologies. There’d be no journey’s end without him. He’d know the magic, but more importantly, the enemy’s next move.

2) Clare Bell. First, she’s a stone’s throw from where I currently live, so I wouldn’t have to travel much out of my way. Second, she’s a biologist, sustainability advocate, and an animal fiction writer—in other words, who I want to be when I ‘grow up.’ Together, we’d go on a paleontological dig for prehistoric felines.

3) Brian Jacques. If anyone knew warriors, it was Brian. He also had a knack for describing mouth-watering feasts. He’d be in charge of swords and snacks.

4) Patricia C. Wrede. She knows dragons as well as quests, but more importantly, she knows humor. On a magic journey, I’d need someone to keep my spirits up. Patricia’s a bucket of laughs and lemon-water (read Dealing with Dragons for clarity).

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

The only reboot I know well is the The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire. The books were dense, but clever enough to warrant multiple readings. They work because they pay homage to the source material, but not at the expense of the story or characters. They can exist on their own without relying on constantly winking at the reader. I can’t stand that. It’s like a bad movie with no creativity, using celebrity cameos to garner box-office success. I can’t think of many books relying on such crappy hand-tricks, but that’s mostly because I avoid reboots. Still, good-retellings are out there. I hope to find them.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I’m a biologist! Writing doesn’t pay the bills (and for a long time, neither did biology). I’m currently working on the water crisis in California, but I hope to get back into wildlife ecology in the next few years. For my master’s I studied coyote diet and how it varies between season and location in the San Joaquin Valley. Coyotes have a bad rep but are extraordinarily important to human-modified ecosystems. If I could devote myself to preserving North American predators (and biodiversity in general), I’d be pleased as punch! As much as I love fantasy, nothing is more astonishing than the world we already live in. It’s more than worthy of our curiosity and exploration.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

To be honest, I hate advertising myself. I don’t mind other people doing it, but from me, it comes off vain and needy. I go through a cold sweat before putting anything up on Facebook or Twitter. I spent fifteen years keeping my manuscript a secret. Now when I hear my dragon’s name on another’s tongue, I have a little flip-out (like they’ve just read my mind). I’m slowly getting better, but it’s an adjustment. What I find difficult is telling strangers that I’ve made something worth looking into, but having no idea if that’s true. If I’m reaching a Watership Down fan, then yes, they should read my book. If they like teen-paranormal romance, they might hate it. Finding my target audience is challenging because animal-fiction is going through a dormant stage, at least for older readers. But this inspires me to write something new and peddle The Waters of Nyra when I can.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Caris from World Without End (Ken Follett) and Alexandra from O Pioneers! (Willa Cather) would be on either side of me. Though separated in time (1300’s vs the early 20th century), they are young people struggling for their dream career, fighting the oppressions of their sex, heritage, and social standing. Hell-bent on a singular source of happiness, Caris and Alexandra abandon the niceties of comfort and deeper relationships (romantic or otherwise) which wait on the fringes of their ambition. Life begets choices. As a millennial who graduated just in time for the economic recession, I can identify. I’ve been running a race and not quite getting ‘there,’ leaving much of what I love on the road. It’s a timeless battle, and one to which billions can relate.

Beyond these two would be Theo Decker from The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt). In literature, we too often see characters who play their best cards in spite of bad hands. Theo is dealt bad cards and then cheats. Yet we root for him. He’s a good person, even when he’s swindling, even when he’s using, even when he’s betraying his friends. How can we possibly love him? Because, like Caris and Alexandra, he is us. He screws up. Badly. But he learns. His ethical 180’s are slow and arduous, but life is like that. I followed him through hundreds of pages and it still wasn’t enough. I want to know what he got up to after the final paragraph.

Across from Theo sits Morgra from The Sight (although as a wolf, she might need special accommodations). Morgra is one of the great villains of literature, although few have heard of her. The best baddies aren’t baddies, or at least they didn’t start out that way. Some are borne from injustice or trauma. Morgra is no exception, however, whether she was transformed by circumstance or an innate hostility is never answered, not by the heroes, not by her. She’s the ultimate enigma. We hear her thoughts in a few chapters but she’s still impossible to decipher. I love characters like that, with self-belief that could either be true or entirely fabricated. At teatime, I’d take one last stab at trying to figure her out.

And finally, at the head of the table, would be Jean Valjean of Les Miserables. He is one of those rare characters who experiences his ethical turnaround at the beginning of the story, not three-quarters through. As readers and creators, it’s easy to forget that not all journeys twist at the ‘climactic battle.’ Valjean defies the formula. His story is about the after.  The generosity of people is often overlooked, especially since the selfless rarely wave their flags. Valjean would be the guest of honor because he would never ask for it, and serve as a reminder that the story doesn’t end with wisdom. Rather, it begins again.

Which favorite fantasy worlds would you like to visit and what would you do there?

Not gonna lie: Harry Potter. No elaboration necessary. You’ve read it. We all have. There’s a wonderful quote by Ms. Rowling: “All these people saying they never got their Hogwarts letter: you got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together. Of course it happened inside your head, but why on earth should that mean it wasn’t real?” I went to Hogwarts with friends and strangers and look forward to dozens of visits.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

That I fell in love with? The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Sometime in early elementary school I was pushed (kicking and screaming) away from picture books toward intermediate-reader novels. None of them starred animals. As a misanthropic seven-year old, I started boycotting stories and turned to informative non-fiction. In doing so I became extremely learned in zoology. I begrudge nothing, as this may have resulted in my career in ecology. But it wasn’t until I discovered The Grand Escape, which stars cats, that I realized some authors were writing strictly-textual animal fiction. From there I hopped to Brian Jacques’ Redwall, Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing, and really didn’t look back until I discovered historical fiction in my 20’s. More ‘mature’ animal fiction waned in popularity some ten years ago, thus getting The Waters of Nyra to the surface has been tricky. So I’m grateful to older readers who haven’t turned their noses up at talking dragons. The kids have been great, too!

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

I’d take my own brainchild, Nyra, who has a knack for evading death. This is partially because she has a lot of help. But in spite of personal trepidation and more self-doubt than any eleven year old should have, she’s moderately clever and resourceful. I’m neither fast thinking nor thrill-seeking, so I’d have to strap myself to someone much more tenacious: her. A tasty libation? I’d settle for root beer, but Nyra (being a dragon) would prefer cool water from Fitzer’s Reservoir.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume 1:

Never an ordinary dragon, Nyra grew up forbidden to breathe fire or fly. Like her mother before her, she has only known a life of enslavement, held in thrall by mountain dragons, which need Nyra’s ripening wings to secure hunting for the future.

But at the cusp of her first flying lesson, new rumors whisper through the herd. Mother pursues friendships in forbidden places, blurring the once succinct enemy line. In a whirlwind of realization, Nyra uncovers a secret in plain sight, one thought unknown to her enslavers, and one putting her at the focal point of rebellion should it come into play.

And come it does, but through a terrible accident, killing the slaves’ last chance of escape. To survive, Nyra must conquer the sharp-ended lies cutting her future to ribbons and the war threading in their wake.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume II:

After braving the ocean, Nyra finds herself incarcerated on the other side of the world. The would-be saviors are in the midst of civil war, and her presence enflames their rivalry. Caught by the Sorja herd, Nyra is held prisoner with Olieve; a Royal as garrulous as she is blind, neither friend nor foe, but essential to the young dragon’s escape. Yet even escape has little promise, as the opposing Raklisall herd has a poisonous outlook on Agrings, so potent it reawakens an old scandal of superstition and murder.

At the crux of deceit, scorn, and prejudice, Nyra must unearth new weapons in her natural repertoire and learn the identity of a mysterious hero. Only then can she return home, and at long last free her downtrodden kin.

Places to Find Kelly Michelles Baker









Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: James Livingood, Author of Pale Rider

LivingoodPaleRiderFolks, please welcome the highly entertaining James Livingood. I have had the pleasure of enjoying 3 of his stories (Pale Rider, Summer Sword, & Magic Factory). We chat about Brandon Sanderson’s works, supernatural creatures, Firefly, and plenty more. Also, don’t miss out on the audiobook giveaway at the end of this post!

Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon?

I would rather have a dragon than be a dragon. Popular media shows dragons as hording gold and the closest I’ve every come to that is having a “piece of eight” pirate treasure mounted in my office. I am not very materialistic.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

I like the idea of a supernatural creature saving me from doom. Much of the current portrayal of superheros seem like “happy accidents”. They accidentally gain great power and now use that power for good. On the other side of that space aliens feel like deus ex machina. They can be anything the author wants because humanity has never met an alien. Furthermore, alien technology can be whatever the author wants. However, supernatural creatures are purpose driven which I find fascinating. They exist for a reason and that binding (then breaking) of rules is what draws me to fiction.

LivingoodMagicFactoryIf you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Book: God Emperor of Dune

Movie: Flash Gordon

TV Series: Firefly

For me, the entire Dune universe came to a conclusion in the God Emperor of Dune book. Flash Gordon is something my family watched on a regular basis. The soundtrack was created by Queen and the movie was a cheesy type of fun. Finally, Firefly was well written and a pleasure to watch.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

Brandon Sanderson would be the guide, since he knows the rules. Kevin Hearne could provide jokes and positive attitude. Jim Butcher could be the brooding one in the back that comes up with a crazy plan. Finally, I could sacrifice Terry Goodkind to the lion / volcano / angry natives. After reading all 11 of the original Sword of Truth series, I ended up only liking one book.

Who or what are your non-writer influences?

There are a lot of them: family, friends, teachers. I’ve been lucky to have so many great people in my life that singling just one out is difficult.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

My other job is playing with technology. Beyond writing, it’s the closest thing to playing with magic. Using universal machines to create anything and communicate anywhere feels very magical.

LivingoodSummerSwordCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I once got into an awkward argument with Brandon Sanderson. I felt he wrote the exact same female characters better than Robert Jordan. He was humble and disagreed. However, I was in full fanboy mode and I kept pushing my point. It was very awkward.

Which favorite fictional worlds would you like to visit?

I am working my way through Scott Meyer’s Magic 2.0 series. I think it would be fun to visit a world that I could program like a computer code. Living in that world would be like the holodeck in Star Trek.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

The first one I remember reading would be Where the Wild Things Are.

LivingoodPaleRiderBook Blurb for Pale Rider: Zombies Versus Dinosaurs:

“I am often left to wonder why a zombie, walking around in the sun, smells better than a pooping dinosaur.”

Two worlds collide in this action novelette. Zombies have destroyed civilization. Gasoline fuel is no longer an option, but humanity must find a way to survive. In response to trying to restore our way of life, we engineer franken-monsters. Because of their small brains and massive sizes, these beasts make quick work of farming and clearing land. These large creatures are immune to the zombie virus and perform excellently in loud conditions. They are easy to train. They behave like war horses, prone to help charge in and defend our livelihood.

In honor of the past, and to help build our future, we named these creatures dinosaurs.

Places to Stalk James Livingood


James is giving away 5 copies of Pale Rider: Zombies Versus Dinosaurs! To enter do the Rafflecopter thing below OR answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an account? 2) Please leave a contact email (I promise not to do anything evil with it) 3) Do you have an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment? Giveaway ends September 15, 2015, midnight.

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Book Giveaway & Interview: Martin Berman-Gorvine, Author of Heroes of Earth

Berman-GorvineAuthorEveryone, please welcome Martin Berman-Gorvine. He’s here to entertain us with a chat on Gulliver’s Travels, Awesomecon 2015, geeky arguments, Martin’s upcoming works, and much more! Martin has also generously offered up a giveaway, open internationally, so don’t miss that at the bottom of this post.

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm? 

It’s increasingly the case that books, movies, graphic novels, etc. are viewed as comprising a single profit-obsessed beast called “the entertainment industry.” The word industry for me conjures smoke-belching factories, and the convergence of every form of storytelling is regrettable in many ways because it erases healthy distinctions between different forms of high art and pop art—this at the same time that new, absurdly specific “genres” are constantly being invented out of whole cloth by crazed marketers (middle-grade paranormal suburban steampunk, anyone?)

But it would be hypocritical of me as a speculative fiction writer not to acknowledge that I benefit from not being shoved into the ghetto of low-brow, disreputable and dangerous art that science fiction resided in back in the 1950’s, along with comic books, or to pretend that I wouldn’t welcome a phone call from some sunglass-wearing, poolside-drinks-sipping Hollywood producer eager to put my eminently filmable fiction on the screen. It wouldn’t even cost that much thanks to digital graphics to depict the psychedelic biplanes zipping around a Quetzelcoatlus-descended dragon in my latest novel, Heroes of Earth.

Berman-GorvineHeroesOfEarthWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I was a lonely, picked-on, self-pitying nerd (a term that had no positive connotations when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s). When I was in eighth grade I wrote a satirical sociology of the junior high school I was attending, dividing my classmates into five castes: Averages, Toughs, Pseudo-Toughs, Brainy Averages, and Brainy Weirdos. The last of these groups was the one I saw myself belonging to: “These have even higher I.Q.s than Brainy Averages. They are usually wimps. They do not conform to any usual style of dress (unless they are Pseudo-Toughs) and are likely to become nuclear physicists, cellular biologists, or something like that. They are not usually dangerous except when you trip over them.” (See my blog at for the whole thing). Arnold in Heroes of Earth is like that. There’s a lot of the young Martin in him, to be honest.

As you can probably guess, when I wrote about the “Brainy Weirdos” I already saw myself as a writer, and had done so for several years by that point, producing reams of poetry (especially haiku), short stories and essays. I was hooked on expressing myself that way from the moment in elementary school when I read aloud in class an Inspector Clouseau ripoff I had composed for an assignment and basked in the laughter of my classmates—and for once, they weren’t laughing at me.

Berman-GorvineSaveTheDragonsIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in science fiction literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

I’m a great believer in classics, and I would start with Gulliver’s Travels because for me the presentation of very different kinds of people and creatures, fantastical technologies such as the “project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers” at the grand academy of Lagado, and of course the underlying satire of human venality and violence are the very same things that draw so many of us to reading and writing science fiction. H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds established two of the major themes in science fiction and have never been exceeded in storytelling excitement. Alternate history classics such as Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee and Philip K. Dick’s flawed but brilliant The Man in the High Castle helped create an important subgenre and pave the way for Harry Turtledove’s novels and my own work, such as the British America in my novels Save the Dragons and Heroes of Earth. The works of the great women writers who overlapped with “Second Wave” feminism in the larger American culture, such as Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, and James Tiptree Jr.’s Houston, Houston, Do You Read? provided vital new perspectives. I would want to include the work of Robert Charles Wilson, who writes three-dimensional characters and ponders deep religious questions amid world-shaking events, notably in The Spin. Really I’d have a lot of trouble limiting the reading list, or fighting the temptation to assign my own work.

DanielsBraveNewGirlsCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Oh gosh. At Awesomecon 2015 I got the chance to meet Amber Benson, the actress, filmmaker and urban fantasy author. I wanted to give her a copy of my book Heroes of Earth that I had with me, but I worried that would make me seem like some kind of freakily obsessed fan, or maybe an author nobody wanted to read, especially because there were staff hovering around to prevent the truly obsessed from bothering the “celebrities.” So I settled for giving her a bookmark with my books listed on it. If by some bizarre chance she ends up reading this, I still have the book I meant to give her, autographed and everything!

What do you do when you are not writing?

Reading, mostly history or speculative fiction. Cleaning up excretia from our five cats and one dog. Disregarding Petula Clark’s advice and falling asleep on the subway. Working at my day job as a newsletter reporter and editor.

Berman-GorvineSevenAgainstMarsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

I have these every day with my sixteen-year-old son Daniel. He asks me what I would do if I could travel in time—“and you’re not allowed to kill Hitler, Dad.” “Kill Hitler,” I say. His follow-up question is, “What superpower would you have, if you could have any?” I haven’t figured out the answer to that one, so I shift us over to a little light ontological debate. Sometimes he offers me some useful advice for my next novel—for example, when I told him about the philosophical problem posed by the existence of parallel worlds in Larry Niven’s short story “All the Myriad Ways,” where the main character decides to kill himself because free will is meaningless in a multiverse where all possible decisions have been made somewhere, he suggested a counterargument that made it into Heroes of Earth. When we finish talking he’ll go back to playing Skyrim and I’ll go back to such fun pursuits as reading about the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

Berman-Gorvine36Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Side characters can assume outsize importance in the hands of a skilled author. For example, I recently finished reading Erica O’Rourke’s Dissonance, one of the most intriguing and complex approaches I’ve ever encountered on a parallel world theme. The main character, Delancey, is something of a standard-issue young adult heroine in being a rebel and a misfit, though she’s no less appealing for that. Her older sister Addison is her foil for much of the novel, a goody-two-shoes and seemingly an untroubled snitch who starts to develop unexpected depths and nuances toward the end of the novel. I’m looking forward to seeing both girls’ characters develop in the sequel.

In my own work, Jo Purnell, who first appeared as the annoying kid sister of one of the two teenage main characters in my 2013 novel Save the Dragons, returns in a more central role in Heroes of Earth, and I can feel she is definitely demanding her own novel. She’s going to get what she wants, too, because I’m a little intimidated by a girl who can telepathically talk to dragons, out-think Albert Einstein and Roger Penrose in mathematical physics, effortlessly picture higher dimensions in her mind, is musically talented, and outspoken and willing to fight for what she believes in. The challenges she faces will have to be considerable to be worthy of her. But she may live to regret getting what she wants, because I’ve recently signed a deal for a four-book horror novel series with Silver Leaf Books—the first one, All Souls Day, is due out in February 2016.

Places to find Martin Berman-Gorvine

Twitter: @MeshuggeWriter

Giveaway: open internationally!

One autographed copy of Heroes of Earth! Enter the Rafflecopter below or you can do the following in the comments below: 1) leave a way to contact you; and 2) answer this question: What is a recurring or memorable geeky debate you have taken part in?

Giveaway ends in 2 weeks, Midnight August 9th, 2015.

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Kill It With Magic by J. A. Cipriano

CiprianoKillItWithMagicWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Rebecca Roberts

Publisher: J. A. Cipriano (2015)

Length: 7 hours 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Lillim Callina Chronices

Author’s Page

Lillim has magic and attitude on her side… and not much else. A kidnapping has her facing off demons and vampires to get the kid back. But there’s more going on and an ancient dragon wants her to do his bidding. Lillim isn’t so amenable to that idea. And the dragon is about to find out.

This is a fast-paced urban fantasy with plenty of baddies, magical weapons, action, good guys with questionable personal agendas, and tough parenting going on. Lillim may currently be only 16, but she’s also a reincarnated badass from before in her mother’s days of power. This is one of the key things that really made this book work for me. She can be physically 16 – strong, quick, perhaps even cute – but she also has some memories from her past life so she has this knowledge base that assists with decision making. Often Lillim thinks and acts older than a teen and I could always point at that past life influencing her here and now to explain it.

Supernatural beings are every where in this book. I like that they fill a range in complicated motivations to simple grasps for power (or food). The werewolves are on the line of being bad guys or good guys, depending on whether or not Lillim can or chooses to help them out. Then we have some interesting vampires, one of which does some dumb stuff with a demon. There’s also the semi-aware magical weapons that are pretty cool. Toss in an ancient dragon and you have a very exciting, if somewhat wrecking-ball, party.

Lillim has this complex relationship with her mother that we learn in little snippets. I liked that it wasn’t a clear love or hate, but a twisted mix of the two. Lillim had to learn to fight badly behaving supernatural beings the hard way, usually by being tossed into a mess of them. But that tough love from her mom has made her the badass enforcer she is today. Lillim’s mom’s relationship with Lillim’s past-life self makes this aspect of the story all that more interesting.

The pace is very fast and there is always some action going on. In fact, if Lillim is taking a moment for reflection, she is usually reflecting on some past fight (her’s or her mother’s). So on occasion I did get some battle fatigue as one fight after another blended together. This is a very minor criticism as I enjoyed the book most of the time and it won’t hinder me from checking out Book  2.

I received this audiobook from the author (via his publicist) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Rebecca Roberts made a very good Lillim Callina. She also had distinct voices for the other characters. On occasion, she had to come up with an interesting supernatural voice and she pulled those off as well.

What I Liked: The cover art; fast-paced urban fantasy; Lillim is strong and young but also has wisdom from a past life; plenty of baddies with a variety of agendas; magical semi-aware weapons; complicated relationship with her mom.

What I Disliked: Occasionally I got battle fatigue as one fight scene after another blended into each other. This is a minor dislike and won’t keep me from checking out Book 2.

What Others Think:

Musings of a Starving Author

Cathi Shaw

Borderlein Publishing

Frostborn by Lou Anders

Waffles snoozing

Waffles snoozing

Where I Got It: Won a copy from SF Signal (thanks!).

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (2014)

Length: 336 pages

Series: Book 1 Thrones & Bones

Author’s Page

Karn doesn’t particularly want to run the family farm in Norrongard. However, his father is adamant that he learn everything about the farm and the business, including successfully conducting trades. Yet Karn’s head is more interested in traveling and the board game Thrones & Bones. Meanwhile, high up in the ice mountains, Thianna is having her own trouble fitting in. She is half human and half frostgiant and she has spent her whole life proving she is more giant than human. Too tall for a human and too short for a giant, she feels she doesn’t truly fit in anywhere.

The two worlds collide at the Moot, where trading occurs between humans and giants. Not all have held to this tradition and each year the number of attendees gets smaller. So of course Thianna and Karn are the only two young people at the event. If I have any quibble with this book, it is this one little point. Why were they the only young people at this event (and for much of the book, tho there are some giant younglings)? Anyway, back to the plot.

Pretty soon, the evil scheme of a relative unfolds and the two of them have to join forces to escape, and then defeat a plethora of baddies. There’s some undead viking warriors, a magnificent dragon, multi-headed trolls, and some wyvern warrior ladies. Sometimes they face them together and sometimes they are on their own.

Karn has to come to grips with the betrayal of a family member. While on this adventure, he realizes how important family and farm are. Meanwhile, Thianna struggles with her identity when the wyvern warriors show up demanding an item that belonged to her mother. One could say this is a coming of age story, but foremost it is a wickedly entertaining adventure tale. Weaving myth and magic into practical characters, Lou Anders will keep his readers entertained. So looking forward to book 2!

What I Liked: Various myths woven into the story; Karn often uses logic and wit while Thianna uses heart and strength; fine adventure tale; plenty of interesting and entertaining baddies; a touch of magic; coming of age story; wonderful cover art; very satisfying end.

What I Disliked: One very small quibble: Why are there no other young people at the Moot & fr much of the book?

What Others Think:

Lightsaber Rattling

Wondrous Reads

cucullus non facit monachum

Great Imaginations


Reading Rumpus Book Reviews


To Light the Dragon’s Fire by Margaret Taylor

TaylorToLightTheDragonsFireWhere I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!).

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 17 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dragons, Griffons, & Centaurs, Oh My!

Author’s Page

Twin sisters Terra and Lanni Heegan go caving in the wilds of Wyoming. For Terra, it is her last hurrah before entering into a loveless marriage. However, things take a turn pretty quickly and soon they are swept up in another world where shifters and chimeras rule. They will each face numerous foes, and perhaps even find a mate.

Draven is a shifter and lord of the land. He is use to being obeyed and his every word taken seriously. That is, until he is presented with two examples of the mythical being known as human. Terra is pretty sure Lanni has set this up. Perhaps it is with actors. Perhaps it is one of those all submersive vids that you can buy. Maybe even a dose of mushrooms. So when she doesn’t take Draven seriously, things go awry. He has to shift into his dragon form to save her from a nasty fall. Unfortunately. Draven’s guards take Terra’s actions as an act of aggression and she and Lanni are tossed in a dungeon, only to be rescued by an unlikely being.

The action picks up really quickly and Terra and Lanni, neither of the shrinking violet variety, do their best to hold their own. Periodically, they are being rescued. Sometimes they do the saving. Draven and his wing man (Arin) make a good duo for the twins to alternately argue with and fight evil side by side. The world building is full of fantastical creatures, such as talking animals, all sorts of chimeras, the shifters, and magical creatures who don’t appear to do any shifting (like the unicorns and rhocs). Arin is a bit of an outcast as he is part of a small group of beings that are never fully human, always retaining some traits of what they shift into. So I pictured him as looking a little like the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, but more disgruntled and trimmer, being the war commander he is.

While Terra is a bit more kick ass than Lanni, they both contribute to the plot and are not simply there as romantic interests. They do tend to do more thinking than the men, but this is required by someone if they are to outwit their foes. And the foes are many, with several of them hidden.

My one quibble is that Lanni becomes a trauma medic without having had any hands on training or experience, but just from having read a medical book or two. At one point, a character is injured, passes out, and Lanni stitches this character up. That’s fine. Lots of people can do stitches in a pinch. Once the character wakes, she goes on to say how they must have had some internal bleeding. Uh… well, if that is the case then it is pure luck they didn’t die and that the bleeding either stopped on it’s own, or slowed enough to leave the injured stable until a real medic could be called.

The romance is a light thread that carries throughout the book. For some of the characters, the connection is made really swift, and others it takes a while. It did not detract from the plot and in certain instances, added to it. There’s also a touch of modern and just over the horizon tech. I liked how this was done lightly, so that we could stay focused on the characters and the plot and not get hung up on whether this was fantasy or science fiction. The ending left us on a very dramatic note (which I liked) and then a bit of a cliffhanger. So be ready to jump right into Book 2 because there is plenty of plot left to unfold and resolve!

The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a good job with all the character voices. I especially liked his slightly furry voice for Aaron (and since he has whiskers and a kind of leonine face it totally fit). His female voices were believable and he had a range that allowed for distinct characters. There was a true challenge in doing voices for Terra and Lanni (who are twins) and yet making them distinct for the listener and he met that challenge with excellence.

What I Liked: So many magical beasties!; Terra and Lanni kick butt and add to the plot; plenty of action; dramatic ending; ready to jump into Book 2!

What I Disliked: Lanni has excellent trauma medic skills after reading a book or two.

BannerOnceUponATimeIXTis the season for fantasy reading. I am participating in this year’s Once Upon A Time IX reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

Night Owl Romance

The Violet Hour Book Reviews

Kingdom of the Last Dragons by Theresa Snyder

SnyderKingdomOfTheLastDragonsWhere I Got It: Own an copy.

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Mary Sibulsky

Length: 1 hour 55 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Farloft Chronicles

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works as a stand alone. However, if you want to give Book 1 a try, the audiobook version is free on the author’s website.

The Healer Theresa has returned to the kingdom after studying for a decade in the far east. She renews her friendships with Farloft the dragon and the Wizard Laval. She also gets to know James as he continues to make strides in his learning how to be a dragon. Meanwhile, Theresa’s niece visits. She catches the eye of both the Prince and James. Laval appears distracted and secretive and Theresa tries her best to pry out of him what is the matter. Pretty soon, the Zonguldak Ruby is casting it’s evil spell upon everyone.

This was a fun installment in this jaded and interesting dragon series. On the surface, these books look like children’s books. But once you start digging in to them, you see that the characters have real, human issues. Or dragon issues. Farloft is ancient, full of wisdom, and rather arrogant with his know-it-all ways. Laval is harboring a deep hurt (from Book 1) and prone to vengeance. His pain could damage more than just his target.

Then we have Theresa and her niece who are doing their best to try to reconcile these two old friends (Farloft and Laval) while not ticking off the Prince. Plus they have their own lives – healing, house chores, the niece’s art. Snyder’s writing is so concise that she can fit a lot into a book that isn’t even 2 hours long.

So it’s obvious that the author made the decision to write herself into the book as a pretty important character. Usually, I find it kind of awkward and clunky when an author chooses to do this. However, in this book it was seamless. I really didn’t notice it at first and about 10 minutes in, it finally clicked that our Healer was a version of the author herself.

In Book 1, we learned a bit about the issue between Laval and Farloft, and also how the rift between them deepened. In this book, we get the back story. For then ending, we have a very satisfying resolution to this issue. My time listening to this book was well spent time indeed!

Narration: Mary Sibulsky was a good choice for this book as it was told from Theresa the Healer’s point of view. She also had a range of voice for both men and women and I especially liked her voice for a ticked off James and a recalcitrant Farloft.

What I Liked:  Not just for kids; the cover art; plenty of story in such a short amount of time; the Farloft-Laval issue from Book 1 is revisited here in Book 2; satisfying ending; great narration. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book.