Review of “Given to Fly” by JD Estrada

I smiled the entire time I read this book. It’s sweet, fun, colorful, imaginative, and includes wonderful lessons for any child or adult. The wordplay often made me chuckle, and the writing proves Mr. Estrada is a poet even in prose. The story reminded me at times of “Alice in Wonderland ” and at times of “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” while always being unique as well. Great characters, fantastical adventures, beautiful language – I was hooked.

This is a book I will definitely buy in paperback for my kid to treasure.

See it on Amazon!

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

35422555

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!

Review of “The Elemental” & “The Empath” by Lisa Veldkamp

26786740I’ve read a couple of fantasy/magic-based stories using the elements as the source for magic, and I liked the everyday approach to them in this story. Catherine and her gifted circle of friends lead pretty ordinary lives, but they use their gifts to help others in subtle ways every day. I WOULD say that there’s nothing flashy about the use of elemental magic in this book, but then again, there is the whole climax scene where they have to save the planet.
Catherine, for me, was a very believable and likeable character. She experiences a natural range of emotions in this book, and seeing the story through her eyes (mostly) added some mystery to the book because you’re naturally curious about this mysterious neighbor/love interest and what he really knows.
The first part of the book dragged just a little bit for me because I wasn’t sure where any action would be coming from, but it was a nice look into the fun and magic-quirked lives of these women. The use of the word “Darling” kind of drove me nuts, but once Tristan shows up things take off and the plot gets more direction.
The author’s definite strength is her ability to portray these characters as unique individuals, even if they’re only in small scenes. It felt like a rounded cast of characters. And the danger element was nicely woven in once it was revealed, which gave the book a great build to the end…with hints of something to come.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

34623300Veldkamp does something really daring with this book, which is basically retell the entire first book, but from a different character’s perspective. This kind of worried me that there’d be no mystery or suspense, but there really was a WHOLE other side plot going that we saw very little of in the first book. I was really impressed how well this worked. For me, this book was even stronger than the first because there was more danger, more intrigue, and more magically gifted people to get to know.
At the same time, it IS the same story. You do see a lot of repeat scenes from the first book, but again this somehow works well because Tristan has such a different take on what’s going on. For me, reading this one only made the pair of books stronger.
If anything, the plot thickens. Not only do we see more behind the scenes all the way through, but there’s quite a different surprise waiting at the end.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

“The Kota” Relauched

THIS WEEKEND ONLY, GRAB THE KOTA FOR $0.99! 

find-out-more-button

Kota Cover New Front (1)

A terrifying virus.
A global tyranny.
Humanity remembers no better life.
It’s time to give them one.

Troy Kandoya wants nothing to do with his brother’s Kota movement. But when the DRK virus threatens mankind and strange portals open in the sky, the Kota are the only people with answers. Troy becomes Trok, the immortal Kota Interceder, and he soon finds himself responsible for more than he ever imagined.

After 500 years of war, genetic manipulation, viral plague, and the Dominion tyranny, Trok must unite four prophesied Kota Warriors destined to save Earth.  But nothing about these heroes is what Trok expected. Loree is an assassin with the ability to dematerialize.  Zaak is forced to grow up on an alien planet. Alex is a telepath missing a year of her life.  Ryu has incredible mutate-genes of strength.

Together, the Warriors join Earth’s rebels and use their abilities to fight the Dominion. But rebel politics are complicated. And always, the Dominion threatens its subjects with an unstoppable weapon – the dehumanizing DRK virus.

For centuries, no one’s been able to stop the Dominion and the DRK. Can four Warriors really make a difference?

Excerpt:

Lee’s expression was one of complete confusion as he looked up from within the cryogenic bed and saw Trok kneeling beside him. Reviving him had been a shockingly easy procedure, but the Kota scientists with Trok had prepared for this their whole lives.

Lee coughed and struggled to sit up in the steaming cryo bed.

“It’s alright,” said Trok. “You’re okay. Just take it easy.”

He was so excited and relieved to see Lee alive that he nearly grabbed him in a long-overdue embrace. Instead, he placed a hand on Lee’s shoulder to steady him. Trok was tense for several reasons, but first off he wanted to make sure Lee was okay.

He’s my long-lost little brother, thought Trok. Please, oh, please, just let him be okay!

As the doctors examined him, Lee looked beyond Trok at the dozen men and women gathered. Then he looked around the lab-cave. Trok knew Lee would see immediately that a good deal of time had passed – the state of the lab-cave showed centuries of disuse. Trok and the descendents of the Kota remnant had always kept a careful eye on the place, but some things couldn’t fight age. Faint running lights hummed overhead, but the balcony around their lower level had rusted long ago and collapsed in places. Most of the ancient machinery was broken. Only the life support functions remained intact, though the system had been repaired many times by the Kota assigned to guard over Lee throughout the years.

Lee looked back at Trok and examined his face. Lee himself had physically aged maybe ten to fifteen years while sleeping. Now middle-aged, his forehead was wrinkled. His hair and beard were peppered gray. His body underneath the medical scrubs appeared only minimally atrophic, though very pale.

“You…” Lee cleared his throat to find his voice. “You were frozen too?”

Trok lifted an eyebrow. “Not exactly. Let the doctors check you over, and then we’ll take you out of here. I’ll explain everything once we’re safely away.”

“These are the Kota?”

“Yes.”

“How long has it been?”

Trok hesitated, knowing this would be hard, but there was no real way to ease into it. “Five hundred years.”

Lee’s eyes widened, but he’d been prepared for this. He asked no more as the doctors finished examining him.

The doctor in charge stood, lowered his x-ray scanner, and turned to Trok. “Sir, he’s as stable as we could’ve hoped. I think we’re safe to move him. He’s weak and groggy, but that’ll wear off soon.”

“Good.” Relieved by this news, Trok focused on the next concern. He lowered his voice so as not to worry Lee. “I don’t want to stay here any longer than necessary. I’m sure Dominion patrols check this place on a daily basis in hopes of intercepting us.”

“Good thing we brought soldiers, then.”

Yes, thought Trok bleakly. Kota soldiers, anyway. And we’ve only got five with us. They’d be no match for Dominion drone soldiers.

“I’d rather we didn’t have to use them,” he told the doctor. “We can’t afford getting caught in a firefight.” He looked down at his brother.

The doctor nodded and turned to help his partners with their patient. Lee seemed curious about why the Kota deferred to Trok, but he allowed himself to be lifted into a wheelchair. Once he was ready, the whole group hurried for the ancient building’s exit.

Outside, the warm sunlight pouring down didn’t bother Trok’s eyes. He looked over the wilderness beyond the crumbling gates, searching for danger. Trok saw Lee take a deep breath of fresh air and close his eyes to feel the sunshine. This once again reminded Trok how disconnected he was from everything around him.

But now Lee’s with me, thought Trok. I’m not as alone anymore. I just hope he can handle this.

“No patrol activity in the area, sir,” called a Kota soldier from his position near a hover hummer.

Trok snapped into action and took over wheeling his brother toward this soldier’s vehicle. “Let’s be sure we’re gone before they arrive.”

“Yes, sir.” The soldier whistled to his partners. “Load up!”

The Kota doctors and soldiers piled into the other vehicles as Trok helped Lee into the backseat of their hover hummer. Once Lee was secure, Trok closed his door and stepped around the vehicle to climb in the other side. He watched as the first hummer started off toward the road.

So far, so good.

Inside the hummer, Trok ordered their driver to go. They took off smoothly, and Trok relaxed enough to face his brother. He remembered the last time they’d been here – at the lab-cave, in a hover vehicle, with a Kota driver.

Things are so different now, he thought.

Lee took a drink from a thermos the doctors gave him. “I don’t think I can wait until we get to wherever it is you’re taking me.” He was coming to life a bit. “What’s happened?”


PROMO Book1 FREE3 (2).jpg

e-Book:  AMAZON   

“The Prophet” NEW RELEASE!

Woo-hoo! It’s finally done.

Starting today, if you sign up for my mailing list (and if you’re already on my list, you should be getting a link soon) you’ll receive a free, brand new, exclusive copy of The Prophet (The Kota Series Companion Story).
This is the story of the prophets who originally wrote the Kota prophecies. It’s a prequel of sorts, so you can jump into The Kota Series world for the first time OR read for surprises if you’ve already read the series.

TProph

Mind your own dystopia.

Hazen Stephenson grew up pampered, and he knows it.  But he’s never had it easy. Hazen’s nightmares aren’t merely products of his imagination, and he wrestles daily with guilt, responsibility, and questions of fate.  Setting off across the globe, he meets people he’s dreamed about and changes their lives…for better and for worse.

Then he meets Renny Nado, who never dreamed her Creative Writing degree would amount to much.  But a people called ‘The Kota’ say her gifts point to an important destiny, and she must convince Hazen of their purpose.

Meanwhile, the world is full of pain, hate, and political upheaval. Should they accept what the Kota say about the future and their place in it?  Or should they keep their heads out of the clouds?

Want to read it? 

subscribe-button

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

#AuThorsday with James Quinn

11863451_1633298326926481_3931834120665565634_nToday I’d like to welcome James Quinn, thriller writer and author of A Game for Assassins and Sentinel Five

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

The Gorilla Grant books are old school Cold War espionage books but with a violent and gritty element to them.

Having read your first book, that’s a good sum-up.  What are you working on currently?

I’ve just finished book 2 in the series, Sentinel Five, which is set in Asia.  My next few months are going to be geared towards promoting that.  Then a break and next year I’ll begin book 3 in the series.  This is the one I am looking forward to the most….it’s my most personal book….but still with lots of action in it.

Good planning!  What is your favorite scene you’ve written?  Can you give us a peek?

My favorite scene that I’ve written so far is actually one of the final scenes from Sentinel Five.  It’s a violent scene and then ends with some tender interaction between Gorilla Grant and a “female” character.  I won’t spoil it, read the book, but it’s an emotional scene from my point of view.

What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

Don’t publish too early!!  Make sure you are happy with it first.  Then give it to a professional editor, they see things that you don’t.  That was the main problem with my first book, A Game for Assassins, I was too keen to get it out and I was just winging it.  It was only when I signed up with a publisher (Creativia) that the production values really started to kick in.

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

Honestly, I’m just glad that people take the time to buy and read them.  But if I was pushed I would have to say I would like readers to ask more about Gorilla’s background.  I mean…C’mon guys…I’ve dangled lots of little clues in both books….you have to search them out to be sure….but there is a whole back-story just waiting to be unpicked by an inquisitive mind.  Some people have asked and emailed me questions about him though to be fair 🙂

Interesting…  🙂  Who inspires you to write?

I have favorite writers certainly, John LeCarre, Ian Fleming, Stephen King, and they are always good motivation.  But really I am inspired by people around me, people who battle through against overwhelming odds and fight against any kind of injustice.

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

When I first wrote the books I always imagined a young Bob Hoskins as Gorilla Grant, that rough edged manner.  Then that changed, maybe Bob would have played an older Gorilla.  Now I’m torn between Tim Roth, a brilliant actor, and a lesser known UK actor from Liverpool, by the name of Stephen Graham.  Both are tough little men, very charismatic, working class heroes.  So they are the ones that I would pick….I’d even run their firearms training for the movie myself just to hang out with either of them  😉

Love Tim Roth.  And that’s a pretty good plan!  When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

I tend to write in bursts…a week here, a week there…then nothing for a while.  I don’t try to force it.  I let it happen organically.  If nothing is coming to mind I will stop and go for long walks, or go and train, anything to distract me.  So far this has worked.  Then slowly…the ideas start to work themselves out.  It’s not perfect but it suits me.

That seems to be a common approach for many authors.  Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

Oh absolutely, very much so.  Because of my job a lot of the technical scenes in the books are taken from my role as a security consultant/investigator.  So if you read a scene that has surveillance aspects, or operating in a covert role in a non-permissive environment, or anything related to firearms/unarmed combat work, then it’s a fair bet that I’ve done most of that.  Art imitating life I guess.

You certainly have a great history of experience to draw from when writing thrillers!  Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

There is a little known book by the Scottish writer, the late William McIlvanney, called The Big Man (it was also a movie with Liam Neeson).  Such a perfect book. It deals with tough issues.  It’s a great crime novel, but it’s also about family and community.  So, that one definitely.  It had such an impact on me when I read it, but as for being jealous….Elmore Leonard.  If I can write character dialogue even half as good as him by the end of my life I’ll die a happy man!

Thanks, James, for sharing!

a1xk6esneil-_ux250_WHERE TO FIND James Quinn:
Website:  www.JamesQuinn.webs.com
Goodreads:  James Quinn
Amazon Page:  James Quinn
Facebook:  James Quinn

#TheFourFriday – Luke as Whitewolf

Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂


This week, Luke as Whitewolf.
Obviously as kids we all have ideas about who we’re going to be when we’re adults – what we’re going to look like, what our jobs will be, how successful we’ll be, etc.   One thing I love about how Whitewolf turned out (via fiction) is that he really basically is Luke.  Bullseye is a lot more of a burdened mess than I am.  Rave is a lot more action-driven and crazy than Christian.  Tigris is a lot more anxious and bossy than Kaly.  But Whitewolf and Luke both turned out to be pretty…normal, in the best possible way.

Also, there’s the not-insignificant detail that Luke LOOKS the most like his alter-ego.  Maybe not quite as tall or quite as muscular, but he’s certainly closer than any of the rest of us.  And certainly closer than I could’ve guessed from the chubby little toddler I could hardly lift.

While developing his character for the original Book 1, I’m not sure if I was conscious of the similarities or not.  But, thinking of real-life Luke when writing Whitewolf later helped me keep him “real” and relatable.  Of all 4 Warriors, I picture Luke the most when I’m writing his fictional replicant.  And I definitely hear his voice when Whitewolf talks, especially when he calls Tigris, “Sis.”

The Four

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: