Review of “Strange Luck” & “The Nightmare Birds” by Amie Irene Winters PLUS Early Look at “A Darling Secret”

25418989First, beautiful cover.  I feel like it fits the playful, whimsical, slightly mysterious tone of the story.

Second, I loved the complex and unique use of memories.  It was a great way to shape the fantastical world Daisy finds herself in, and it was a neat way to bring so many fantastical elements together – in a world of happy memories and dreams, anything goes!  The danger of Daisy losing memories added a great sense of tension. Her romantic partnership with her best friend Roger was also believable and made me care about the characters.  And, how she gradually learns how to save the day was creative and pulled it all together.

I have to admit that Daisy’s character bugged me a bit.  At times she’s loving and confident and brave.  At other times she flies off the handle and is snippy and doesn’t think before saying or doing something stupid.  This would sometimes all happen in the same scene, and it felt a little unnatural.  Also, towards the middle of the book, the maturity level of the writing shifted weirdly.  The book was plugging away and feeling very YA, and then suddenly it was like the dialogue and action were more fitting for a far younger audience.  I still liked the story during this part, but it was a bit jolting to read.

BUT, I really enjoyed the last half of the book.  I felt like the plot finally had solid direction, and I loved how everything I’d been wondering about came together.  The twist towards the end was pretty cool too – although you worry for a second.  And I really liked the time jump at the end that further showed how everything turned out.

Overall, I’d recommend this for anyone who likes YA fantasies that give you a mystery to figure out.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

 


29806696A bit of time goes by between the first book and this one, and the maturity level definitely goes up as well.  It’s nice to see Daisy has moved out of her teens but is still young enough to struggle with questions about life and who she is.  For that reason the book still feels YA, but it’s definitely not as light as the first.  This story is a lot darker.  There’s dark magic, many skeletons, murder, etc., and the Theater of Secrets is definitely a dramatic place full of dangerous characters.

I liked how this plot felt much more straightforward than the first book. While there are still plenty of magical surprises, this world also feels more familiar.  I think that makes the danger to Daisy that much more suspenseful.  She again made decisions that annoyed me, but considering her emotional state, it kind of makes sense.

I loved how the plot thickened and you were never really sure what to believe – and Daisy wasn’t either.  Is her own mind tricking her? Is Mr. Black telling the truth after all and there’s going to be a huge twist on everything we thought we knew as a reader so far?  This story definitely kept me turning the pages as I tried to sort it all out.   I liked how certain things from the first book tied in here, but it’s definitely a new story.  And the end certainly suggests Daisy has more to learn.

5 Stars

 

See it on Amazon!

 


A DARLING SECRET_AMIEIRENEWINTERS_FRONTCOVER

A Darling Secret
Strange Luck series, Book 3
Coming September 22, 2017

 

Learn the fate of your favorite heroes and love-to-hate foes in the thrilling conclusion to Amie Irene Winters’ bestselling Strange Luck series.

Before the Theater of Secrets was formed, before the Nameless was built, before Daisy Darling learned of her magical bloodline, there was the Realm of the Shadow Gods—ruled by the most powerful and wicked creatures known.

For nearly two decades, Daisy’s twin sister, Rose, was held captive by the Shadow Gods and survived. Now Rose has come to find Daisy to stop their impending evil from spreading into the human world. But Rose bears a terrible secret that has the power to destroy everything.

In the devastating Realm of the Shadow Gods, dark magic holds no bounds. Daisy will risk everything to save those she loves, but will the truth finally break her?


Unlock the final book in the Strange Luck series with A Darling Secret.

Pre-order today, read it September 22, 2017.


 

A Darling Secret excerpt:

A slow, creeping fear wound its way around me.

Tiptoeing around the mysterious plain, too afraid to call out, a surprising wisp of music came floating through the air. It was a jingly little melody—like a music box—followed by soft voices.

I paused. Through the violet-stained sky and swirling rainbow mist I saw something moving. My eyes narrowed as I stealthily approached an illuminated cave.

Shadows were gathering there.


A Darling Secret Amazon link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074JVRWH4?ref_=pe_2427780_160035660


MEET AMIE IRENE WINTERS

Amie Irene Winters Headshot Cropped.jpgAmie Irene Winters was born and raised in California but now lives and writes in western Pennsylvania. She is the author of the bestselling Strange Luck series.

When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dog, baking desserts, or breaking a sweat in kickboxing class.

To learn more about Amie and her books, visit amieirenewinters.com.

 

Sign up for my mailing list here! You’ll only get emails when I have a new release coming up, a sale, or a giveaway.

Social media links:

Website: http://www.amieirenewinters.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00XZ88V5A

Blog: https://golden-cricket.blogspot.com/

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13851542.Amie_Irene_Winters

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmieIWinters

 

 

Review of “The Road to Grandeur” by Brandt Trebor

27155940First of all, the blurb for this book doesn’t do it justice.  The story is a full-out adventure in a magical world populated by every fantasy creature you’d hope to find, and there’s plenty of heart and comedy thrown in. I loved all the twists the plot took in bringing together the main characters, and it was wonderfully not predictable.

Jayde is the main character, but Sarah is just as important and  must get close to equal “screen time.” There wasn’t a single character that I found lacking, which is great considering how many minor characters there are. Of course, with this being a “book 1,” I’m sure more will be revealed about some important characters in the future, and that helped to make the story feel even bigger.  Cameron in particular (without being too spoiler-y) seems to have a past I’d like to read more about.  But the pixies John and Lucy and lovable troll Marl are just as interesting.

The writing itself isn’t stuffy or grandiose, and I felt like the writing set the feel for the story – fun and light but serious where it mattered.  The middle of the book wandered a bit, but that tends to happen in long stories.  At no point was I bored, largely because the author does a good job of hinting throughout that something bigger is going on with these two girls.

I highly recommend this as a fun summer read, full of magic and quirky characters.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

 

Review of “Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith” by Shaun Hume

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It’s impossible to write a review of this and not mention the similarities to Harry Potter.  A parentless boy is whisked away from the ordinary world and taken to a fantastical school.  He ends up with really only two friends, one of whom has constantly unruly hair.  Each class focuses on a different discipline and has a quirky and/or mean teacher.  The kids will all eventually be sorted into different houses…er cliques.  The boy’s past and parentage obviously are important, with more to the story than we’re told right away.  There are creatures.  There are hovering deathly beings.  There’s an unseen dark-lord-type with evil followers.  Etc.  Etc.

In a lot of ways, this feels like an obvious attempt to appeal to a certain crowd of readers, almost like a kind of fan fiction.  BUT, I soon forgave all that and just went with it because the author does a lot of unique things too.  For example, one of Ewan’s two friends (both girls) is a pirate.   It’s also refreshing that the world-building is not *entirely* based in magic.   There is magic, yes, but we’re told pretty quickly that most people aren’t good at it and instead focus on other talents.  And I really enjoyed what the author did with the true Queen of England.

It’s easy to fall in love with Ewan as a character.  The poor kid just can’t win, and he’s a very believable 11 to 12-year-old boy thrown into new and overwhelming circumstances.  Enid and her pirate family added a much-needed feeling of newness to this story, and I loved that her character was rough around the edges.  Mathilde is great too, with her confidence and loyalty and almost-ever-present smile.  I even enjoyed the adult characters, who are a little flat because the focus is more on the kids.  As the plot thickens, you aren’t supposed to know which adults and older kids to trust, so their elusiveness adds to the suspense.  It usually drives me nuts when there’s some huge danger and kids don’t bother to tell the adults about it, but here it completely makes sense that they try to stop the danger themselves.

As for the author’s writing, there is a LOT of description.  It really is a bit too much, slowing the dialogue especially.  And sometimes a word is used incorrectly so that a sentence might sound flowery but really doesn’t make sense.

Still, I stayed in this book for the three main characters because their friendship dynamic was so lovely and fun.  And, yeah, if you miss Harry Potter in your life, give this a go.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

#AuThorsday with Amie Irene Winters

AmieIreneWintersHeadshot.jpgToday I’d like to welcome Amie Irene Winters, bestselling author of the Strange Luck series.   

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

Dark.  Strange.  Adventurous. P erfect for fans of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Neil Gaiman, and all things supernatural.  If you love magic, wizards, oddities, teen fantasy, mythology, supernatural creatures, young adult dark fantasy, and other realms, then the world of THE STRANGE LUCK SERIES awaits you!

I love when the “fans of” list clearly sets the tone and feel of the story.  Are these elements things that you look for as a reader as well?  What are some favorite books in your genre?

Thanks.  I tend to look at the description first, but if I’m still not sure about the book I’ll check out the “fans of” component.  I included titles/authors in my description because people have told me that my books are similar to those.

I love anything by H.P Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman.  I’m really into gothic horror literature right now and have been reading authors who influenced Lovecraft.

I’m a Lovecraft fan too.  What are you working on currently?

I’m finishing up the final edits for the third (and last book) in the Strange Luck Series—A Darling Secret.  All the books in this YA Fantasy series center around a specific theme. Strange Luck (Book I) focused on the value of memories and identity.  The Nightmare Birds (Book II) focused on fear.  And, A Darling Secret (Book III) will focuses on inner strength.  A Darling Secret will be released fall 2017.  I can’t wait for the series to finally be complete!

Congratulations on nearly being finished!  Did you always plan to focus each book on a specific theme, or was that something that developed as you went along? Are those particular themes important to you?

I didn’t plan it.  The themes developed as I wrote.  When I write I don’t plot everything out.  I have a very general idea of what I’m going to do and the rest I come up with as I go.  For example, I wanted to write a book about a world built using stolen memories.  That was the general idea I had for Strange Luck.  The rest took form as I wrote.  A lot of the time I don’t even know what is going to happen in the story or to my characters, but that’s part of the fun.

All the themes I discuss in my books are important to me and are largely based on my own experiences/thoughts, like how we are our memories.

I’m a plotter myself, but your approach sounds like a fun way to create.  When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

It sounds counter-intuitive, but I take a break from writing.  I’ll go for a walk, hit an aerobics class, paint.  Whatever it takes so that I feel recharged and can look at my work with a fresh eye.  Sometimes it might take a few hours.  Other times it might be a few weeks.

Do you find that your method brings a flood of ideas back to you so you start writing again, or do you eventually just decide to start writing again and hope ideas come?

More often than not, I’ll get a flood of ideas.  This is why I always have a notebook with me or my cell phone, where I can take verbal notes.  I also get inspired by reading.  I’ll be sitting there half paying attention to the story I’m reading and then suddenly, an idea will come.  All my paper bookmarks are covered in notes.  Lol.

Ha!  That’s a great idea for bookmarks.  Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

Definitely!  Since I’ve always been an outdoorsy girl, I found it easy for my protagonist to be one too.  Daisy’s a bit of a tomboy who loves hiking and camping.  The trails she hikes and places she goes are based on some of my favorite real-life places in California (where I grew up).  Almost all my characters are inspired by people I know.  Even some of my old pets I had growing up!  There’s a lot of other secret things I throw in too, like how my experience as an aerial acrobat influenced writing The Nightmare Birds, which is centered around a dark circus.

If you are curious about more secrets behind my books, check these out:

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Strange Luck

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Nightmare Birds

Aerial Acrobat?!  That’s definitely a unique experience to draw ideas from!  When real-life people inspire you to create characters, do you ever tell the real people?  And do you ever encounter random people with quirks you use in your characters? 

Yes, I do tell certain people that a character was inspired by them.  They always get a kick out of it.  And yes, I do encounter random people with funny quirks that I’ll implement into my stories.  An example of both is Christine (the German aerial acrobat) from The Nightmare Birds.  In real-life Christine was a German foreign exchange who stayed with me and my family in high school for a semester.  She was obsessed with the color orange. Everything she owned was orange and she only ate orange food.  She also had really long brown hair, which she always chewed on like a beaver.  You’d be standing there talking to her and she would start chewing on her hair like it was a meal.  I always thought both of those quirks about her were funny, so I used them in the story.

That is funny.  Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

Probably Harry Potter.  It’s one of my favorite series of all time, but I think J.K. Rowling is more than deserving, especially after all that she has been through.  She’s truly an inspiration and a remarkable person.

Many authors seem to feel that way about Harry Potter and Rowling.  Why do you think her stories make SUCH an impact on not only readers, but authors in particular?

J.K. Rowling effortlessly invites you into her magical world, which leaves a delightfully whimsical lasting impression on any child or adult.  I think it’s impactful on authors because the story resonates across multiple genres.

Thanks, Amie, for sharing!

WHERE TO FIND Amie Irene Winters: 
Website:  www.amieirenewinters.com
Goodreads: Amie Irene Winters
Amazon Page: Amie Irene Winters
Facebook:  Amie Irene Winters
Twitter: @AmieIWinters

A Fairly Fairy Tale

The official page for “A Fairly Fairy Tale” is now live!
See link below. 

Source: A Fairly Fairy Tale

A Fairly Fairy Tale – Cover Reveal!

I’ve been busy, busy, busy finishing up my first Fantasy story (since I decided to get the book out in time to be a Christmas gift to my new nieces.  Shh!  It’s a surprise!).  It’s finally about ready to go, so I wanted to give everyone a first look at the cover!
I’ll also post sneak peeks at chapters and illustrations this week, so watch for those!

AFFT Kindle Cover.jpg

SYNOPSIS:

Once upon a time and with surprising frequency, dragons kidnapped helpless princesses.  As the ultimate romantic gesture, heroic princes fought the dragons and saved the damsels in distress.

At least, that’s the story you’ve been led to believe.  But here’s a little secret:

Sometimes the dragon saved the princess from the princes…

In the kingdom of Marshwood, everybody lives happily ever after – orphans, stepmothers, everybody.   King Wesick is wise and beloved.  Queen Mattea is beautiful and kind.  Prince Nolan is handsome and brave, and his sister Littagale is smart and talented.  But when it comes time for Princess Littagale to marry, suddenly the dragon Tor flies down from Mount Shadow, kidnaps the princess, and flies her to his dark lair.

“Oh, no! The horror! Who will save her?” cry the townspeople.

With great fanfare and the cologne of testosterone, princes from near and far arrive in Marshwood and vow to rescue the princess – in exchange for the honor of becoming her husband and inheriting the kingdom.  The townspeople rejoice, place bets, and everyone waits to see who will defeat Tor and save Princess Littagale.

But what secret is Queen Mattea hiding?  And why does Tor have a spa in his lair?

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW!
http://bit.ly/AFairlyFairyTale

Release date & Paperback available:   12/20/2016

Review of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” by Danielle E. Shipley

28595730This book was exactly what I needed.  It’s rare that I wish I could rate a book over 5 stars, but this is one of them.  It’s a perfect blend of action, humor, quirky twists on mythology, and great characterization.  I literally laughed out loud more than once, and this book was a pure pleasure the whole way through.

We all know some other attempts at modernizing the legends of Robin Hood and also Merlin/Arthur, but this one was nothing I expected.  Dropping these characters into our contemporary world is a recipe for hilarity, and how the author had them interact with cars, electric guitars, fast food drive-thru’s, a certain national retail store, etc. was nonstop entertainment.   I also really liked that the author flat-out had them say some of the stories about them were wrong – Guinevere and Lancelot, for example.   Maid Marian was also much different and (for my vote) better than we’re used to seeing her.   Robin Hood, Will Scarlet (my personal favorite source of comedic relief), Little John, and the rest were also recognizable as “themselves” with their common attributes but also portrayed as fuller characters.

Then there’s Allyn-a-Dale himself.  This is where the author got to play around with a bit of originality thrown into the story, and everything with Allyn really adds to the plot and tension of the story.  I loved that he seems to naturally fit with the others and yet holds his own ground.  I loved the use of his dead father as an internal catalyst.  Everything that Allyn brings with him from his world into Avalon added a dimension that kept the book fresh and original, and the twists of how these worlds interacted was great.

If you like a little goofiness in your Fantasy and you’re at all a fan of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, give this a read.  It’s not long at all, but it completely brightened my day and I look forward to more adventures to come.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

#AuThorsday with Danielle E. Shipley

7021985Today I’d like to welcome Danielle E. Shipley, fantasy author of the Wilderhark Tales novellas, the novel Inspired, and the book we’re here to talk about – The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale, book #1 from the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy.  

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

My Outlaws of Avalon trilogy in brief: Camelot’s heroes and Sherwood’s most wanted are magically alive, conditionally immortal, and ingeniously incognito in a modern day Renaissance Faire.  Enter Allyn-a-Dale, a minstrel dropped in (yes, literally) from a far-off fantasy world.  Cue adventures (and misadventures) galore!

I’m looking forward to reading this!  What gave you this idea?

It came from one of my family’s visits to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  We’d made a point for years of going once every summer – and I would go on to work on cast as a Town Crier from 2012 through 2014 – but 2010 was the first time I encountered their player portraying Robin Hood.  I was thrilled to fangirling pieces, and couldn’t help but half-wonder, half-hope:  What if there were some way that was really him?

That’s great fuel for the imagination!  What are you working on currently?

I’m juggling a few things at the publishing stage.  My next Outlaws of Avalon project falls in between novels; look for my e-novella tribute to Dickens, “An Avalon Christmas Carol”, to go live on Amazon in December!  Also coming soon, my best friend/writer buddy Tirzah Duncan and I have a co-authored short story coming out in an “Arcane Arts” anthology; expect necromancy with attitude.  And of course I’ll be fiddling with Outlaws of Avalon 2 right up until its release in March 2017.  Whether I’ll ever pencil in a space on the schedule for breathing is yet to be determined.

Busy, busy.  Do you like collaborating in the writing process?

With the people in my head, yes.  With people outside of me?  I’m much more selective about that.  Too many awful group project experiences in college.  *glowers into the past*

I hear ya.  What is your favorite scene you’ve written?   Can you give us a peek?

My favorite scene from The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale… That’s gotta be when the Merry Men’s road trip really starts rolling.  My poor characters and I were still exhausted from the chapter before (car shopping is stressful!) and in a kind of grumpy place all ‘round, until Allyn— Well, you asked for a peek, did you not?

“I’m just saying,” Will continued, “that it would make it easier for me to stay alert if the rest of you could make some sort of effort to keep the atmosphere a little more lively.”
Little John answered with a yawn.
Sighing with frustration, Will gripped the steering wheel harder and glared past the windshield. From the back of the van came a soft, musical chuckle, followed by the sound of a gently plucked guitar. And over the strings, a voice that sang:
Little John yawns,
His eyes drooping half-closed.
But small wonder he’s thinking
Of having a doze:
For we’ve ridden this road
Half as long as it feels —
(Time both quartered and doubled,
When traveling on wheels) —
And it’s been a most tiresome,
Dull sort of ride.
So have your yawn, Little John.
Will — eyes wide.”

The song goes on, and it’s just so perfectly Allyn at his cheekiest that it never fails to brighten my mood.

Very clever!  Do you enjoy writing a lot of humor into your stories?

Oh, absolutely.  My sense of drama has darkened with age, but my sense of comedy is still showing its roots.  When you’ve been raised on Bugs Bunny and slapstick chapter books, playing for laughs comes naturally.

What is one question about your books that you wish more people would ask?

I’m all about my characters, so I’m always hungry for readers to want to know more about them. “What does Allyn think of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?” (Answer: Innovative; strange; admittedly fun to wail along to.) “Would Will Scarlet rather go hungry for a day or do his grocery shopping naked?” (Answer: Food and nudity are two of his favorite things, so…) Things like that. The deep stuff.

Haha.  Since you use some previously fictionalized characters, do you try to stay consistent with those known personalities, or do you more make them your own, or a mix?

That’s the blessing and curse of taking on such longstanding legends: There’s a good thousand years of material to draw from!  Fortunately, with so much variation already out there, I was free from thinking that my retelling had to be any one particular way to be valid.  So I reached into the canonical heap, selected the bits I felt like working with, then let the characters in question show me how they wanted to manifest this time around.

In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?

In a perfect world, my Merry Men would be here and (in between hanging out with me) could play themselves.  They are professional actors, after all.

Good point and not an answer many authors can give!  Who do you think would do best onscreen?

Will Scarlet, hands down.  The man knows his angles, and would bring the energy nonstop.  Seriously.  Good luck turning the energy off.

Thank you, Danielle, for sharing!

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WHERE TO FIND Danielle E. Shipley: 
Website:  www.deshipley.com
Goodreads: Danielle E. Shipley
Amazon Page:  Danielle E. Shipley
Facebook:  Danielle E. Shipley, Author
Twitter: @DEShipley

Review of “In the Shadow of the Dragon King” by J. Keller Ford

25721483I read this book a lot faster than I thought I would because the world and adventure drew me in.  There’s a good bit of action to balance out a lot of explanation and dialogue – which was needed in a book that spans both our world and a fantasy one.  There’s a good range of characters, and the main heroes’ journeys make you want to follow them along and figure out what’s up.

The world of Fallhollow is your basic fantasy realm with kings and queens, mages, knights, and of course dragons.  The history to the world was pretty well-explained and sets the story in motion.  David is a very unlikely hero, his love Charlotte gets pulled along for the ride, and when they enter this realm we get to see everything through their eyes.

The author added an interesting element by making Charlotte very, very anti-war.  What David is asked to do conflicts with this so that they both have to reevaluate what fighting for justice really means and costs.  This was a bit infuriating at times because Charlotte is so set in this mindset that she doesn’t seem to understand the reality of their situation.  It also kind of stunts David’s growth into the “savior” character he is supposed to be, so it left them a little weak for me.

Then there’s the alternating viewpoint of Eric.  Through his eyes, we see the insider’s view of Fallhollow.   He knows the knights and king and queen, he knows the publically known story of their history with the dragon.  And by eavesdropping (there’s a lot of eavesdropping!), he picks up clues about what’s really going on.  This worked for me because it added mystery and tension to the story, while David’s viewpoint was more about getting from point A to point B.

As a character, Eric is conflicted in many different ways – with the death of his friend, with feeling overlooked, with wanting fame, with not being trusted, etc.  I’m never a fan of whiney teenage drama, and I mostly wanted to slap Eric.  BUT, I think you’re supposed to.  He clearly has a lot of growing up to do, but by the time the truth is revealed I still wasn’t sure he was worth the trouble of liking him.

Overall, this book is a fun adventure.  It has many elements of a typical fantasy world, and the use of magic is pretty cool.  All the intrigue adds to the plot, and although some people might not like all the dialogue I thought it helped flesh out the characters.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

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