Sunday, August 28, 2016

Landquaker by Dean Wilson

Please note, I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

One of my favorite parts about reading a well-written book series is being able to pick up right where I left off, without having to re-read other books to try to figure out what is going on. I read the last of the Great Iron War series books, Skyshaker, back in the winter, and got to jump right back into the world of Altadas with Landquaker without a preamble or refresher course. Wilson's books are fairly fast paced and keep you on the edge of your seat, constantly wondering what's going to happen next (because when you go up against the Iron Emperor, there's bound to be a few obstacles and enemies). Landquaker earns itself 4 out of 5 stars and fills me with anticipation for the next in the series.

From the Publisher:
The Resistance has barely nursed its wounds from the recapture of Blackout, and it is now looking to another, tougher target: the massive steam-powered railway gun known as the Landquaker. They call the vast railroad the Iron Wall, and that mounted barrel is its only sentry. It does not need another.

Blackout was a sitting duck, but the Landquaker is a moving target, and not only one that shoots back, but one that shoots first. The Resistance turns to old allies and new friends, from the land-loving tribes to the land-roving biker gangs. It will need every soldier it can muster.

The Landquaker was designed with a singular purpose: a monstrous gun to hold back a multitude of monsters. Except this time the multitude mans that weapon, and in its hands the land is not the only thing that will quake.

My Thoughts:
What a world, what a world! There is just always trouble for our band of rebels, but you can't help but know that they are going to find a way to pull through. One of my favorite parts of Wilson's writing is the relationship he builds between the reader and his characters. They are not only fighting in a war, but they are fighting their own battles as well. Taberah dealing with motherly duties, Brooklyn and Rommond trying to repair what the Regime has taken from them, Jacob just chugging along, finding his niche among the Resistance fighters. I'll admit, I didn't really like some of the characters when I first started Hopebreaker oh so long ago. After getting to know them more, I can't help but feel for them, and want nothing for the best for all of them (especially Whistler, he's just so young and innocent and na├»ve in some ways). I actually get anxious when somebody is in mortal danger, which happens a lot in these novels.

I really enjoyed the feel of Landquaker. The plot had a very traditional feel; fighting to take back something that was stolen and used for evil. Dean Wilson makes this plot his own, both modernizing and traditionalizing it in a way that only a talented author and a steampunk novel can do. Throwing in the tribes and a more spiritual subplot was an interesting tactic, and I'm still kind of working out if this worked for me, but overall I truly enjoyed getting to read another story, and getting to meet another instrument of war in the Great Iron War. Can't wait to see what Worldwaker has in store!

- Justin :)

Friday, March 18, 2016

About the Author: Heidi Angell

Guys, I am SO excited to share with you my first ever author interview! Heidi Angell is an author I've known for some time now, I've reviewed just about all her work, and am always so excited and so entertained about her stories. Her most recent, Hell School: Fresh Meat is a partly auto-biographical story about a high school student burdened not only with being a freshman in a new school and new town, but also with having the unwanted attentions of a suitor who just won't take 'no' for an answer. I had the chance to interview Heidi, and talk a little bit about what it was like for her to write a story that hit so close to home with here. Here it goes!

How are you? Any good reads lately?
I am great! So excited to be here! I am always reading something, and most of the time it is good! I recently read a really edgy book called One Night Stan's by Greg Sisco. I was kind of surprised that I would like it as it is about a strip club and some really seedy and misogynistic stuff, but I found myself absolutely loving it. The writer has a great dark sense of humor! 

I read off your Goodreads profile that you rarely find yourself getting writer's block, but that you get 'writer's derailment' in which you come up with ideas for new stories while you're in the middle of writing one already. I was wondering, where do you feel you get the inspiration and the ideas for your stories?
It is always different. Sometimes they are influenced by real-world events, sometimes I dream them, sometimes they develop from conversations with my kids! That is part of why new stories will interrupt current stories. I have found that simply getting the idea down into my idea folder will usually give me some piece to finish up one project before going to that one. 

What kinds of thoughts and feelings came up while you were writing Hell School: Fresh Meat, given that you've mentioned you used your own experiences in high school as the premise for the story?
My stalking experience left me with PTSD (didn't know it at the time.) and going back to try and write about the experience re-awakened a lot of that trauma. My kids couldn't figure out why the door was locked when they got home from school. I would wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night because someone had gotten up to get a drink of water. I had to change my walking routine because I was having really bad anxiety walking by myself. And that was just from the first book, which many had noted "wasn't that scary". Stalkers don't usually start out scary... but by the time it reaches that level it is too late. The next books will grow in intensity for sure! 

What advice would you give to a high school student (or anybody, really) who finds themselves dealing with unwanted or potentially threatening advances from another person?
A couple of things. First, make sure that the person is clear that you are not interested in any way, shape or form. Second, make sure you tell family and friends what is happening. If you go missing, they need to know who the number one suspect should be! Third, get the police involved as soon as possible, and keep going to them even if they "can't do anything" the first dozen times. If you tell your stalker that you do not want him/ her calling you and they continue calling, report it to the police. If your stalker is following you and you tell them to stop following you, the next time you see them following you, call the police. 4th. Take a self-defense class. not Karate, a class that is specifically geared around self-defense. These classes will focus not only on defense moves, they will provide information on ways to protect yourself. They also provide an amazing support group of people who are going through or have been through what you are experiencing. 

What drew you to becoming a writer? 
 I love stories, and how they shape the way we view the world. I wanted to tell stories that would shape how others see the world. Here I am. 

Are there any other passions or interests that we should know about you? 
I have so many! But, I'll give you a special insight into a new passion of mine! I got a Kitchen Aid for Christmas (my husband is bound and determined to find a way to get me to like cooking as much as he does!) and I LOVE my Kitchen Aid. I might, might even be learning to love to cook! For 12 years my husband has been trying to get there, and he may finally have achieved his goal. I am making homemade bread as soon as we get done with this interview ;)

Can you tell us anything about upcoming books? I'm particularly interested in the Hunters and Clear Angel books.. ;) 

Ha, me too! I am so excited. The second book in The Hunters series will be out this summer (I know, finally, right?) It is going to be pretty awesome and will follow Screvin, Havoc, and Fury as they track down the werewolf who turned Screvin. Then they will discover that they are now the hunted. I know, cruel teaser, huh?! 

The third book in the Clear Angel Chronicles should come out the end of the year, or possibly early next year. I have a busy year coming up! 

I, for one, can't wait for the next installments in these series, and also for Heidi to add a cooking section to her own blog, particularly the baked goods section, now that she has a Kitchen Aid ;) Thank you so much for taking the time to be a part of this Heidi, I can't wait to see more of what's to come!

Hell School: Fresh Meat is now available! Go check it out on Amazon, Smashwords, and other major e-book retailers. Here's my review if you want to find out what it's all about before grabbing your copy!

Justin :)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Hell School: Fresh Meat by Heidi Angell

Welcome to the next stop in Heidi Angell's Hell School book tour! I'm so thrilled to be able to be a part of this, I have enjoyed reading all of Ms. Angell's books and jumped at the opportunity to review an ARC of her upcoming story of a high school freshman in a new school. Best of all, I know that her books are always worth reading, they're consistently packed with interesting, relatable characters and entertaining plots. Hell School: Fresh Meat did not let me down, and earned its 4 out of 5 stars for tackling such tough subjects as moving, high school, and having a stalker, while keeping a light, entertaining air throughout the story.

From the Publisher:
High school is hard, especially when you're a freshman in a new town, surrounded by people you don't understand and who don't understand you. Sam was overwhelmed just trying to fit in. Then she is singled out with the first letter.

While some girls envy the “romantics” of this unknown admirer, Sam can tell something isn't right. Sam wanted to just blend in, but someone's eye is fixated on her. As the letters and bad poetry continue, so does the nagging in Sam's stomach telling her this is not normal.

When things escalate from strange to creepy, Sam's world becomes a nightmare. Twisted admiration is stalking her around every corner in the high school from hell….

My Thoughts:
I am so impressed and full of admiration and respect for Ms. Angell, who has stated that this story was based on true events. I couldn't even begin to imagine having to put up with the unwanted attentions of an unknown suitor, but could appreciate that it would have stopped anyone from really having the high school experience that they were looking for. Kudos for being able to explore such a traumatic experience, and put it out there for others to read and learn from!

I was both intrigued and a little confused at how the story flowed from page to page. It was at times difficult to keep track of how much time had lapsed, or what was even going on, which I'm going to say went along with the fact that this story takes place from a high school student's perspective ;) I know that my mind was pretty easily side tracked by seemingly important details, so it was interesting reading this kind of a story. Heidi does a great job tying Sam's experiences with her stalker into the story, such that rather than making it the sole point of the story, it becomes an underlying theme in Sam's life, lurking near the surface of her consciousness, but only poking its head out when prompted by yet another letter with bad poetry taped to Sam's locker. Poor Sam is just trying to get through her freshman year of high school, having moved across the country and just trying to learn the lay of the land, but she gets to deal with fear and stress because somebody just can't take no for an answer.

Like I said before, Ms. Angell always manages to make her characters realistic and relatable, even in her other stories which stray from 'real' fiction and delve more into imaginative fantasy and adventure. I felt like I could identify with Wes and Clint, particularly since high school guys are stereotyped into only being interested in one thing, and are often thought of as incapable of having a platonic friendship with a girl. While Clint (and to an extent Wes) both appear to be attracted to Sam, I thought it was great character development that this did not define them as characters, nor did it define their interactions with Sam or with the other girls in this story. It played a part, of course, but it was not their main trait in the story.

There you have it, my newest review and part in Heidi Angell's Hell School: Fresh Meat tour. This book is set to be released on March 14th, so check it out on Amazon and Smashwords when it's out!

- Justin :)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Coming soon...

It's been a little disheartening that life has pulled me away from this little side project of mine, and it is my sincerest hope that I can put more back into this blog. I'm determined to have at least 1 post per month, which shouldn't be difficult considered I've really jumped back into reading recently (audio books go a long way when you drive at least an hour a day). What I am planning on doing is a full revamp of my blog, but I could use some support and advice in doing so. Anyone who has experience with this is more than welcome to post in the comments with some suggestions for making my blog more user friendly, and a more exciting little corner in cyberspace. :)