Readers Will Identify With Van Rompaey’s Ascension

imageAscension
The Oasis Series
Author: Jeannie Van Rompaey
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing (April 2016)
Pages: 312
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
Twitter: @JRompaey
Website: JeannieVanRompaey.com

I’ve always has an affinity for mutants and Greek mythology. Well, pretty much any mythology, be it Greek, Roman, Finnish, Native American, you name it. Imagine my delight in reading Ascension by Jeannie Van Rompaey which combined the two. I received an advance copy of this novel in-exchange for a fair and honest review.

Without spoiling much of the novel, I’ll attempt a synopsis:  At some point in the near future, the Earth’s environment has been destroyed through a combination of environmental neglect, war and scientific meddling into genetics (of plants and humans). The result is a fairly medium-sized population of mutants living in sheltered domes, protected from the harsh environment. These mutants are not your ordinary super hero variety; they have two heads, four eyes, wings, multiple arms, etc. Their character traits are based loosely on mythological beings (Mercury, Heracles, Siti, etc.) and they spend much of their time performing mindless tasks of preserving the culture of Past Earth.  Through a series of events the mutants in one sector  learn that non-mutant humans, or Completes, are living in a utopian society on satellites that orbit the Earth. Our adventure continues from there.

Told in short, engaging narratives from the viewpoint of several main characters, Van Rompaey did a great job of keeping me interested in their development as she moved the plot along at a fairly quick pace. A definite plus is van Rompaey’s richly drawn characters and the believable dialogue between them.   One challenge I did have was the lack of real threat for our main characters. Yes they have all lost something in either the past or the present, but as the conflict picked up, some of the resolution seemed glossed over only to move on to the next part of the story. I never really sensed any “danger”. At times it felt I was reading parts of several novels, each based in the same “universe”.  Ascension is a part of an ongoing series of novels, which may be why this feels the way it does.

Who we are and how we think of ourselves is a prevalent theme in the novel. In a world filled only with mutants, the three-eyed-three-legged man is a sex symbol, right? How comfortable we are in our own skin defines who we are. What happens when we find out we can change? Van Rompaey deftly navigates these questions and conflicts and creates a relatable morality tale.

As the plot progresses, Ascension seemed more like a novel that put a twist on office politics and social interaction than about identity. It definitely finds its own footing, turning managerial shake-ups, an office sexual affairs, quotas and competition between other offices into excruciating yet hypnotically funny rituals of humiliation. Readers who have spent any amount of time in an office setting will identify with our crew of colorful characters. Some situations may seem utterly implausible (even in a post-apocalyptic world filled with mutants) but its easy to overlook after investing in each of our characters.

This is a fun read; it evokes a subtle satire of the everyday workplace but its appeal is far broader. Readers will find something to enjoy in this very human tale of being comfortable in your own skin.

Van Rompaey tells an astonishing good tale, mixing up pop culture references and diverse myths into a tale you will identify with.  There are enough plot twists  to keep you surprised. Definitely worth picking up.

3-1/2 Stars out of Five for Ascension by Jeannie Van Rompaey

The Immortals Is An “Instance” Where The Tale Comes Out On Top

imageThe Immortals, Part One
Shadows and Starstone
Author: Cheryl S. Mackey
Publisher: Amazon Digital (Dec. 2014)
Pages: 85 (Novella)
Genre: Fantasy
Twitter:  @Writezalot
Facebook:  Writezalot
Website: Writezalot.com

A thousand years ago the gods known as The Four created the Immortals to protect and defend their world against an invader known as the Dro-Aconi—and then vanished. Left to fend for themselves, the three races of Ein-Aral and the Immortals banded together to save the world.

Ivo, Jaeger, Jadeth, and Emaranthe must protect a desert village and its hoard of Starstone. Can the companions battle inner demons long enough to defeat legions of enemies and keep the enemy from stealing the Starstone, or is this merely the beginning of an even greater quest?

I’m not going to bury the lede here: I’m giving Shadows & Starstone – Part One of The Immortals –  3 out of 5 stars. Cheryl Mackey has written an enjoyable tale set in a world filled with mystery, magic and intrigue. There is an amazing story here and the reader will definitely want to keep reading more stories set in the world of her novel, The Unknown Sun.

Mackey does a great job of world building, setting the tone and pace for her future stories. There is a lot of action and the story and character development move along quite nicely.

As a former World of Warcraft player (Level 80 Dwarf Hunter – “For the Alliance!”) the story and our heroic class-based band of warriors  felt very much like a raiding scenario, or what we geeks refer to as “an Instance”:  a mage with AOE, a druid-like healer, and two DPS Warrior Brothers battling progressively harder mobs or enemies till the fight culminates in an intense Boss Battle.

I very much enjoyed this story, however, it fails in some places, which is why I started the review with praise. I don’t want deter you from reading this series, but it did have a few issues.

The battle scenes are overly described.  The final half of the novella is essentially a slow motion fight scene where we see every drop of sweat fall slowly to the ground, every look and gaze made by our heroes, every furrowed brow slowly furrowing and weapons being slowly drawn, dropped, and picked up again. It’s like one of those slow motion fight scenes in a movie where the bad guy fires a gun and for what seems like ten minutes all you see is the flash from the gun, the bullet slowly leaving the barrel, the casing being slowly discharged and falling slowly to the ground as the bullet moves across space, (again slowly) towards the intended victim. It’s a cool scene, but sometimes it’s over used.

There is a certin obsessiveness with the description of the physical movements of eyes, other facial movements or responses. (furrowed brows, gazing eyes, upturned mouths, smirks, braids and hair movement, gasp, hisses, etc.)  Used occasionally, these physical movements tell their own story.  Used repetitively it becomes, well, repetitive.

In the end, Mackey’s story shines and THAT is the magic of the novella. The characters are richly drawn, the world is vast and mysterious, and the hints of dangers and evils to come kept me engrossed till the end.  I look forward to further exploring this world.

I was provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. I hope you take a chance on this amazing author and give The Immortals, Part One a chance. Again, I give this 3 out of 5 stars.

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to interview Cheryl Mackey, (You can read the full interview BY CLICKING HERE)

Now get going and download your copy of The Immortals today by CLICKING HERE! 

A Few Astonishing Moments With… Cheryl Mackey

imageWelcome back. We are once again sitting in The Last Cafe at the End of the Internet, having a cup of coffee, and getting ready to bring you another great interview with an amazing author. This week we are spending a few astonishing moments with author Cheryl Mackey.

Cheryl lives in Southern California with her husband and 2 sons. Her books The Unknown Sun and The Immortals parts 1 and 2 are both young adult fantasy and available at Amazon.  She currently has a flash fiction story published online at The Prompt Magazine.  She has a MFA in Creative Writing and enjoys games, reading and, of course, writing. Her favorite genres to write and read are Fantasy closely followed by Space Opera and Dystopian.

imageAstounding Books (AB): Welcome Cheryl and thank you for joining us today. We are seated here in the Last Cafe at the End of the Internet. What can we get you to drink?

Cheryl Mackey (CM): Tea drinker here! Mostly iced tea. I prefer plain, boring black tea but I’ve tried various flavors.

AB:  What drew you to write fantasy novels over other genres? 

CM:   I was drawn to fantasy because it is 100% imagination. As a child I could escape into a world of my own making or one made by great fantasy authors. Anything is possible and I revel in the unique, odd, or magical. Without fantasy our world would be a whole lot more boring.

AB:   You’ve been very busy with publishing three novels. What’s up next for you?

CM:   Currently I am about a ¼ of the way through the third book in The Immortals series. I hope to have it out sometime this fall. I’m really excited about this book because it’s the book that answers the questions asked in the previous two. A fourth book will follow to bring the ultimate conclusion.

imageAB:   Growing up, who were the authors that left the biggest impression on you or later influenced you as a writer? 

CM:  I was influenced by a range of authors and genres as a child/teen. Isaac Asimov, JRR Tolkien, LM Montgomery, Madeleine L’Engle, Judy Blume, and more. Asimove and Tolkien taught me that the world is limitless in your imagination and Montgomery, L’Engle, and Blume taught me that girls can do and be anything too.

AB:   What was that first thing you wrote that you were either most proud of or vividly remember as being that one piece that will always stay with you as a young writer? 

CM:   In my 20’s, when I was too cowed by my family to ever believe I could follow my dreams, I wrote a modern version of the Beauty and the Beast fable. It sucked. It really was bad, but I had zero knowledge of how to even be an author then. When I went back to college for my MFA in Creative Writing in my 30’s I dragged that terrible manuscript with me and made it the focus. I used what I learned to make it better. I am still proud of it and it will always be special to me, but I’m not sure it will ever be published either. It’s…too personal, a gauge of my life as a writer, a stepping stone to my current success.

AB:   You brought along a photo. Tell us about it.

imageCM:   Family vacation in Las Vegas approx 1983. I’m the pig-tailed girl in the middle behind the toys. We were set loose in Circus Circus while our parents gambled (several cousins and my brother and I) and essentially cleaned out the place. That’s maybe a fifth of our haul. One of our many crazy family vacations we went on up until I was 18 or so.

AB:   What are you reading right now? 

CM:  I am a weird reader. I have 2 quirks that always freak people out. I reread favorites religiously and I don’t have a to be read pile. I read what I buy, one thing at a time, and I’ve just finished a great fantasy series by Landon Porter called Rune Breaker. I really really suggest fans of classic adventure type fantasy read the series.

AB:  I’m going to take a quick break to get more coffee. Go ahead and Interview yourself till I get back…

CM:  Cheryl, Why did you waste your 20’s worrying that your family wouldn’t approve of you being a writer?

CM:   Good question Cheryl…Because I was not convinced I could ever be one. I gained confidence in my 30’s and became an author. And I was right. They don’t approve… but I don’t care.

AB:   Ok, I’m back. It was a short line. Now some fun questions: Star Wars, Star Trek or Doctor Who?

CM:   That’s not fair! I’m a big geeky fan of all 3! Literally. I fangirl.

AB:   Who Shot First (Han or Greedo)?

CM:   Come on! Everyone knows Han shot first!

AB:   That will do it. Thank you again for joining us Cheryl in The Last Cafe at the End of the Internet and good luck on your next projects.

I hope our readers will check out Cheryl’s works. Her books The Unknown Sun and The Immortals parts 1 and 2 are available at Amazon (Click on the Links). You can follow Cheryl Mackey on Twitter: @Writezalot, Facebook:  Writezalot, Instagram: csmackey_author and on her webpage: www.writezalot.com

An Echo of the Ascended Series Continues with Broken Banners

imageBroken Banners
(A Reaper of Stone Book 2)
Author: Mark Gelineau & Joe King
Publisher: Gelineau & King (Feb. 2015)
Pages: 90
Genre: Fantasy
Twitter: @GELINEAUandKING
Facebook: GELINEAUandKING
Website: GelineauandKing.com

I told you I had more to say about the astonishing An Echo of the Ascended Series by Mark Gelineau and Joe King, so here I am again this week reviewing the second novella in their A Reaper of Stone series. As you may recall I was completely broadsided by how much I enjoyed the first novella, A Reaper of Stone, so much so that I immediately went out and not only downloaded this story, but two more. In my first review (which you can revisit here) I gave the authors praise for creating a wonderful, rich, addicting world filled with strong, captivating characters. Not to rehash much of what I’ve already written, but the Ascended series is centered around 5 characters, each having their own set of novellas that are set in the larger fantasy realm of Aedaron. Gelineau and King have an ambitious plan to release a new novella in the overall Ascended arc every month.

While I received a free copy of A Reaper of Stone in exchange for a fair and honest review, this novella was purchased by yours truly. That’s how much I enjoyed the first story. Hoping that Broken Banners would continue the excellence of the first, I made my way to the nearest wifi hotspot while on vacation and set about getting the next installment.

Mark Gelineau

Mark Gelineau

Broken Banners leaves off where Reaper of Stone ended. We are thrown into the next adventure of Elinor, a Reaper who is assigned the task of coordinating the dismantling and handover of marches and keeps in a kingdom going through a lot of change. While on her current assignment she realizes that the transfer of the most current keep may not be on the up and up and proceeds to investigate. What she finds, like in the first novel, is a disturbing trend of cronyism and evil.

Joe King

Joe King

There is an undercurrent of the supernatural that permeates through this series. Unlike other fantasy series that focus a bit much on magical swords, wizards or dragons, The Ascended series is more character driven and expertly dishes out just enough of the backstory and magic to keep the reader wanting to read more.

Gelineau and King weave an intricate story with just the right number of characters so as not to be confusing. The tension is appropriate and is never lost in cumbersome dialogue. The pacing is quick, so much so that I kept looking at the “time left in book” feature on my Kindle to see how much longer I had to enjoy reading. (You can probably finish the story in about 1 – 1/2 hours or a nice trip to the beach)

I’ve quickly become a vocal and textual advocate for this series, telling all of my fantasy-genre-loving-geek friends to read the series. The novellas are $2.99 each and well worth the purchase. I plan on buying physical copies for a young nephew of mine who will very much enjoy them.

At the risk of my blog becoming “The Ascended Blog”, I’m going to hold off a few weeks on further reviews of Gelineau and King’s stories. I’m knee deep in the remaining available novellas and will try to bundle future reviews. Regardless, expect to hear more.

Another 5 stars out of 5, this time for Broken Banners.

Click here to start reading An Echo of the Ascended Series by Gelineau and King.

At Circle’s End Cover Reveal

Are you ready for something special? Astounding Books, in conjunction with Sage’s Blog Tours, is pleased to bring you an advanced look at the cover for the new novel from Ian J. Malone, At Circle’s End.cover reveal banner

At Circle’s End (The Mako Saga: Book 3)
By Ian J. Malone
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Sharkflight Publishing
Pages: 295
Twitter: @IanJMalone
Facebook: @authorianjmalone
Website: IanJMalone.net

In the months since his disappearance, Danny Tucker has retreated to the darkest corners of Alystierian space in search of intelligence on the empire’s new chancellor, Alec Masterson. Backed by a crew of outcasts and fighting from the shadows as the enigmatic Rogue centurion, Danny will stop at nothing to achieve his mission: absolute vengeance for Masterson’s now infamous “Return to Fear” demonstration.

Still, try as he might, Danny can’t remain underground, and with sightings of the Rogue growing more frequent, Lee Summerston won’t rest until the lost Renegade is found. Meanwhile, in the core, Aura stands on the brink of annihilation as imperial forces, aided by an ancient enemy, draw ever closer to her shores. In the end, scores will be settled, and brothers will rise united… or they’ll all burn together.

AT CIRCLE’S END is the soaring climax to Ian J. Malone’s epic space-opera series, THE MAKO SAGA, and a heartfelt sendoff to sci-fi’s most beloved band of bar buddies turned intergalactic heroes of war.

We are now pleased to present to you the cover of At Circle’s End!

ACE Promo Cover

CLICK HERE to pre-order your copy today! At Circle’s End goes on sale April 12th! The author is hosting a book and audiobook giveaway through Rafflecopter. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

 

 

Gelineau and King’s A Reaper of Stone Is The Start of Something Astonishing.

imageA Reaper of Stone
(Echoes of the Ascended Series)
Authors Mark Gelineau and Joe King
Publisher: Gelineau & King (September 2015)
Pages: 106
Twitter: @GELINEAUandKING
Facebook: Gelineau&King
Website: GelineauandKing.com

Warning: A Reaper of Stone is highly addictive.  Make room on your calendars, cancel appointments, find a dog sitter because, once you realize there are more novellas by Gelineau and King, you will not be able to physically stop yourself from reading them.

To say I’m very selective of my fantasy reading is a bit of an understatement.  As is often the case nowadays, fantasy series are frequently sweeping epics with publication dates spanning years, if not decades (I’m looking squarely at you George R. R. Martin). With a cast of thousands and story arcs that are more intricate than a trigonometry class book written in Klingon, these epics demand my full attention so much so that I often forsake all other series in the hopes of not confusing plot-lines or characters.  Then there are those epics that begin wonderfully, but after many years the writing declines and you merely stay along for the ride just to get a sense of fulfillment only to have the author pass away before the tale is finished. True story.

I received a request a few moths back from Mark Gelineau and Joe King  to review their novella Best Left in the Shadows. At the time I was still wary of attempting to start another fantasy series (being currently embedded in a popular one) that I promised to promote their novel in my Astounding Authors feature and call it a day.

Later, while looking for a short novel to review while on vacation, I came across the novella A Reaper of Stone by Gelineau and King on the Net Galley site. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this novella in exchange for a fair and honest review.)  The first thing I noticed was that it’s part of the Echoes of the Ascended world, as was Best Left in the Shadows.  But it wasn’t until I read that the authors had a plan to publish a new novella each month set in the world of Aedaron that I came to realize the utter brilliance of these stories.

In the authors’ own words: “Echoes of the Ascended is a series of series. Each follows the lives of five orphans. Each features a different orphan. Each is a different kind of tale.”

A Reaper of Stone, centered around  Elinor – strong, confident heroine who is a Reaper in the land of Aedaron – is mesmerizing. The old world has passed and the inhabitants of Aedaron have decided that the world must move on – all keeps of the old world must fall. But in doing so, they’ve lost their connection to the old gods, the old heroes.  The world Gelineau and King created is deep and rich.  They seem to draw from the best of fantasy: a dash of magic, a pinch of politics, and a whole lot of just waiting to be revealed history. Very much like a dealer, Gelineau and King are giving us just enough of this world to keep us hooked for the near future.  No five year waits for the next novel. No complicated plot lines that require a wikipedia page. Just five stories published in a (for now) timely fashion. Just what I needed to keep my fantasy fix going strong.

A Reaper of Stone is  suitable for young adult readers of fantasy and adults that are looking for an inventive, engrossing plot lines and captivating characters.

Next week I’ll continue the review with #2 in this particular series: Broken Banners. I definitely have more to say.  Till then, I highly recommend CLICKING HERE and downloading A Reaper of Stone. Then, after reading it, forward this review to family and friends and get THEM to read Gelineau and King.

But when you find yourself skipping your favorite TV show, avoiding sleep or not walking the dog just to keep reading the next story, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Five Astounding Stars Out of Five Stars

This Winter(son)’s Tale Revisits a Timeless Classic

imageThe Gap of Time

Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Hogarth
Pages: 288
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Twitter: @wintersonworld
Website: jeanettewinterson.com

A sad tale’s best for winter; I have one…of sprites and goblins” – Mamillius

Leo, a rich and powerful man, mistakenly accuses his wife Mimi of having an affair (and fathering a child) with his best friend, Xeno.  As a result he disowns his newborn daughter, Perdita, sends her overseas  and divorces his wife, who withdraws  from society, becoming very stone-like in nature.   Years later, in a stunning twist of fate, the banished daughter (raised by a man named Shep and his fool-like son, Clo) falls in love with the son of Xeno. Perdita’s path to discovering her true parentage brings everyone together to confront their troubled pasts.

Sound vaguely familiar? It should. It’s William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, but in this “cover version” King Leontes is a hedge fund tycoon and his best friend, King Polixenes, is a video game designer; the setting is London and Bohemia (someplace in the United States).  The Gap of Time, written by the appropriately named Jeanette Winterson, is the first installment of the new Hogarth Shakespeare Series of contemporary novels retelling the Bard’s plays.

Readers unfamiliar with the original are given a brief synopsis before the story begins.  Fan’s of Shakespeare will need no such introduction as Winterson is faithful to the  the spirit of the tale and the narrative.  She delves deeper into the complicated personalities of the characters than Shakespeare ever did. Her prose is light and quick, almost whimsical and magical at times, yet can turn hauntingly tragic when need be – much like the original play. She, like Shakespeare, seems to have fun playing with the themes of reversed gender, disguises and coincidences. Scattered throughout the novel are inventive “easter eggs” linking this modern telling to the original play. Winterson seems to step away from the story and float above it, writing not simply for the reader, but for an obvious audience that is peering in on this self contained world.

But while true to the general themes of The Winter’s Tale, The Gap of Time is not a substitute for the original. This is not your high school English Lit teacher’s Shakespeare.  There are more adult themes addressed here, and none of the implied violence of the play is set “offstage”. It can be, at times, very brutal.  Leontes remains a wholly unsympathetic character, even in his supposed redemption.

Notably absent is the wonderful language of the period; that is half the enjoyment of Shakespeare. Winterson does an admirable job of trying to craft the same feel. I felt at times, however, that many of the connections to the original were a bit heavy handed, preferring a more subtle approach. Be that as it may, fans will enjoy these little inside jokes and it doesn’t distract from the overall story.

My advice? Shakespeare fans simply need to sit back and enjoy the translation. Much how directors update Shakespeare by changing settings and costumes to reflect different periods of time, Winterson expertly fashions her own interpretation on the classic, connecting the Elizabethan Age to the MMORPG & Internet Age.  The result is a work that is instantly accessible to an audience that is conditioned by their personal cultures.

More contempory versions of Shakespeare’s plays are planned for the Hogarth series, including novels from Anne Tyler (her version of The Taming of the Shrew) and Margaret Atwood (The Tempest).  The Gap of Time, being the first in the series, (and incidentally the last of Shakespeare’s plays) is a good start to what promises to be a very interesting and enjoyable series.

3 stars out of 5.  An enjoyable novel that will leave you wanting to recommend it to other fans of Shakespeare. Click Here to purchase your copy.

I  received a free copy of The Gap of Time from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review under penalty of being chased off the Internet by a bear.