Titanborn by Rhett Bruno

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Titanborn

by Rhett Bruno

This fun new space drama/thriller, Titanborn by writer, Rhett Bruno, was published this year by Hydra (an imprint of Random House – not the evil organization trying to take over the world and destroy S.H.I.E.L.D….you’re safe folks). Mr. Bruno kindly gifted me a copy in return for an honest review. And I am so honored that he did!

Malcolm Graves is a bounty hunter employed by one of the ruling corporations in the known galaxy. Earth has been crippled by a meteorite and colonies of humans have taken to the stars. Now – 300 years later – two major corporations vie for the top of the hierarchy while people born on and off Earth are mere pawns in their games. Malcolm lives in a world of his own. Hopping from planet to planet and looking for the next assignment that will get him paid.

Unfortunately for Graves, the powers that be see fit to pair the veteran with a new partner, a Cogent. Graves, who has worked mostly on his own his entire career, is extremely unhappy about the new arrangement and more than a little curious about the corporations newest recruits. With the new partner, Zhaff, comes the frustrations Graves expected, some perks he didn’t, but also more questions than he could have anticipated and more answers than he wants.

Graves is mostly reliable, if not a bit on the grumpy side. Flawed and, for the most part, honest about it.  Zhaff is an interesting character to read. He is a rigid rule-follower where Malcolm is a loose, moved-by-his-gut loner. A by-the-book rookie who is young, strong and extremely intelligent, Zhaff is a thorn in Grave’s side.

I thought this was a really fun read. I was surprised in all the right places. When I finished the novel, I was so stunned that I immediately emailed Mr. Bruno and tried to express my immediate “feels” – so many!!!! But I don’t do spoilers!

What I do like to do —-interview the author! Here are a few questions for Rhett:

SR: When did you start your first novel? 4115521
RB: My first novel was actually a fantasy epic called ISINDA that I started writing at 15 or 16. It’s hard to remember which, but that was the first time I decided to try putting together an actual story,
SR: Is your favorite genre to read sci-fi? What do you like about writing science fiction? 
RB: It is. I actually didn’t really discover sci-fi until college, and I think that’s what turned me into the writer I am today. High school never really pushes you to read what you’re interested in, so I lost faith in reading for a long time. I love the imagination involved. I can never get into contemporary fiction because I live in that world, but scifi takes familiar things and pushes them to extraordinary limits. I suppose that’s what I love most about it. As far in the future as it takes us, good, relevant scifi draws from current events in a way that makes you think.
SR: What was your favorite book as a kid – say around 10 or 11? 
RB: At that age, I have to say it was some Merlin book series about a wizard. I honestly can’t even remember what it’s called, maybe simply MERLIN, but I do remember absolutely loving the books.
SR: What is your favorite part about the writing process? Least favorite? 
RB: Finishing it. There’s nothing better than typing END at the bottom of a manuscript. Of course there’s still a ton of editing and work to do, but the satisfaction is real. Least favorite has to be getting stuck. I’m a perfectionist, so I can’t keep writing and save a part I couldn’t figure out for later, so I obsess over it until I can make it work. Being a better outliner might help…
SR: If you could choose any fantasy/sci-fi world to live in, which one would it be? 
RB: That’s tough because so many are pretty deadly ha. I’d have to say Star Wars. No world has ever captured my imagination like it, and the chance at having the force + the ability to travel between planets seamlessly is tough to deny.
SR: Do you have any words of advice to offer beginning writers? 
RB: Yes. Don’t make the same mistake I did early on. Keep reading! Try to focus on the genre you want to write in and you’ll learn a ton. Another bit of advice, don’t forget about editing. To me, it’s the largest determining factor in wanting to be traditional published vs. self published. Good editing is expensive, and not every publisher has good ones on staff. Publishing a book in the best possible condition is a team effort. Send your MS out to betas and friends, get feedback. One set of eyes is never enough to determine if a story works.
SR: Can you give us a little blurb about your Circuit series? 
RB: Sure. On the outside this is an epic space opera rife with space-battles, but the heart of The Circuit Series is it’s flawed characters. This is a story about how their lives intertwine in unexpected ways, taking each of the four POV characters to places they never thought they’d go. These are broken people who have lost someone or something, and long for it back. In the end, The Circuit is about them coming to grips with their fates within the backdrop of a terrible war caused by one man’s blind lust for vengeance.
SR: What is your current favorite book? 

RB: It’s a tough call, but out of anything I’ve read in recent years I think it still has to be THE NAME OF THE WIND by Patrick Rothfuss. He’s just such an incredible writer, and a lot of reading for me is research.

Thank you, Mr. Bruno for sharing your book with me.

You can follow Rhett C. Bruno on goodreads and on insta @rcbruno44!

Indie Author: Ryan Hill

Barking Madness

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Ryan Hill published his novel, Barking Madness with an independent publisher, PULSE Publishing.  I was privileged to receive a copy of his novel in exchange for a review on my blog. Barking Madness is an exciting surprise. This psychological thriller will keep you turning the page to find out what happens next. Murders, werewolves, ghosts, psychotic delusions…there is so much and yet Hill pulls it all together and makes the pieces connect.

The story is told from two different first person perspectives. Mike and Rose switch back and forth to tell us this strange story as they see it. Mike’s character is strong and endearing. He cares about others even when he is hurting and that makes him attractive as a main character. I definitely wanted to continue to know him and thoroughly enjoyed his chapters.

Rose, on the other hand, is distant and childish. She is introduced immediately as being completely self-involved. I found descriptions of her to be very interesting…I am curious to know more about Hill’s construction of this character. Rose is clearly the central figure of the novel, and yet Hill distances her from the reader. However, this does not distract from the desire to “see what happens next”!

Something pretty neat about Ryan Hill is that he began writing Barking Madness when he was 18 and published the book his freshman year of college! How exciting and encouraging at the same time! What is so great about that is not only the accomplishment4469362 in and of itself, but the fact that Hill, who is definitely a talented writer, can only continue to grow in his craft.  I would imagine that we may see some extremely good pages from Hill in the future.

(Rated R: for language and sexual situations – I would recommend this for older YA readers.)

Indie Writer Elissa Riley

Silhouette

Silhouette BOOK COVER by Elissa Riley

I’m extremely pleased to introduce Elissa Riley and her independently published premiere novel, Silhouette. I received a copy of the novel in exchange for a review. First, I have to say that I really love the cover for this book. When I first saw it I found it intriguing and after reading Riley’s novel I think it is a perfect choice to introduce the story of a land called D’or, and two fun new characters in YA writing, Leira and Tristan.

After the unexpected death of her mother, Leira Sky goes to live with her Aunt Agatha in a mysterious manor. The giant house seems to take Leira back in time with it’s traditions, housekeepers and maids and one often forgets that the novel is taking place in present day. Aunt Agatha plays a bit of a wicked stepmother that most of the other story participants fight desperately to avoid.

Then one day, Leira meets the sexy and mysterious Tristan, son of the angry, reclusive lord of the house. Curious about this beautiful young man, Leira follows him one day and finds him in his greenhouse. And so begins their interesting adventures of love, travel to fantastic lands with pixies, tiny mushroom men, weather that changes with a person’s mood, and sinister minions of a dictatorial king. (rated PG/PG-13 – the book is definitely in the YA genre, but refreshingly avoids the need for teenagers to have sex. However, intense descriptions of nightmares or some of the monsters in D’or may push the rating to PG-13 for younger readers)

Readers of The Story Realm will know that I enjoy getting to know authors, not just reading their work. And I was not disappointed by Elissa Riley. She kindly took the time to answer a few questions for us about her writing process and her book. Enjoy!

A Short Chat with the Author

SR: What is your writing process like?

Riley: I knew I wanted to write a fantasy.  This is my favorite genre, not only to read, but to write as well, as it opens itself up to so many possibilities.  I could stretch the story as far as my imagination would take me.  Really, the possibilities were endless.
14137359I’m also a big fan of love stories.  The characters become more relatable and I find myself more emotionally invested in the story.
So, once I had my basic idea (girl meets boy, girl goes to a fantasy world), I drew up an outline.  I found this extremely helpful in keeping me on track while writing.  Then, little by little, I filled in the gaps.
Once I had a finished story, I set it aside and worked on something else.  Sometimes, when I’m so deep into a project, it’s hard to see the details anymore.  After some time, I revisited the story, reading it from start to finish before making any revisions.  Then I repeated this process until I was happy with the end result.

SR:How did this story come to you?

Riley: As I’ve found is the case with many authors, the idea for this story came to me in a dream.  In particular, the image of Leira arriving at a cold, grey, uninviting mansion (which later evolved into Woodbury Manor), only to find herself surrounded by the haunting characters who live there.

SR:Did you enjoy writing a novel enough to try it again?

Riley: I absolutely enjoyed writing this novel.  I found it very therapeutic.  And, while the idea of writing another novel seems slightly daunting (this novel took me roughly four years from conception to completion) I found it well worth the effort.  I currently have several new book ideas in the works that I am extremely excited about.

SR:The description of Bodhi and his home is very interesting.  How did that image come to you?

Riley: Bodhi’s ability to view and alter the future, along with the imagery of his house dripping like wet paint were inspired by the painting “The persistence of memory” by Salvador Dali (the painting depicts several clocks that appear to be melting).  In Silhouette, the concept of time is warped for Bodhi and the idea of a fixed cosmic order is questioned by his very existence.  Bodhi’s house and body are physical manifestations of this idea.

SR:Who is your favorite character in Silhouette?

Riley: I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I have a strong affinity for Leira, as I find her the most relatable.  But the character that was the most fun to write was Nevayah.  Her unapologetic cruelty is so vastly different from my own personality, that writing a character like her was strangely gratifying.

SR:What is your current favorite book?

Riley:This is always a tough question, as my favorites list seems to be ever-growing.  But one book that I always seem to come back to is Stardust by Neil Gaiman.  It’s a magical tale, with beautiful imagery.  Gaiman’s command of the written word is truly inspiring.

Thank you to Elissa Riley for sharing her novel and a glimpse of her process with us here at The Story Realm! If you are interested in reading more about Silhouette or Riley there are links above or here!                        Silhouette            Elissa Riley

Happy Reading and Happy Writing!

Super Fun High Fantasy

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Kings or Pawns

by

JJ Sherwood

So I have had the immense pleasure of reading the first installment of JJ Sherwood’s Steps of Power series, Kings or Pawns. I received a copy of the novel from the author and Sherwood is currently on a blog tour, stopping by The Story Realm today! I was also privileged to receive an audio copy on Audible, narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies.

For fans of high fantasy, this is a super fun new series. The elven city of Elvorium is under threat from a savage warlord, Saebellus and it seems that the famous General Jikun is the only hope to defeat him. Despite the threat the warlord poses, the city’s council members  continue to thwart Jikun for their own personal gain. Intertwined amidst the story of war and political intrigue is the story of Hairem, a prince made king, who finds love in a council member’s daughter. Sherwood draws this first installment to a close that both satisfies our desire for answers but also leaves us salivating for more.

Kings or Pawns is a well done and detailed picture of a brand new world inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves and all manners of magical creatures. Her skills at world building and interweaving plot lines and the lives of multiple characters to form one amazing story is brilliant. The portraits Sherwood sketches of so many new characters are at once endearing and frightening and exciting. Jikun becomes, by far, my favorite character. He is strong, commanding and brave, but also compassionate and flawed.

I was able to ask Sherwood a few questions about her inspirations and favorite pieces of her work.

SR: Ms. Sherwood, when did you start writing?

Sherwood: I began writing in kindergarten. I wrote something about a cat and an “orange, orange pumpkin” with crayons and was probably plagiarized from something my teacher read me, so I’d say the first story I actually wrote came a few years later—when I wrote about a duck trying to get into an apartment during the rain (riveting, I know) and for all I imagine that too could have been plagiarized. Such is the mind of a kid. After that, it was something about a unicorn in a forest and time travel… I was seven, at that point.

SR: What was your inspiration for Steps of Power?

Sherwood: Well, as I mentioned, I’ve been writing for ages—and the first bits of the Steps of Power series popped up at about seven—Evrae was the first character I created and over the last twenty years, the characters and world-building has only grown. But as I’ve been working on it for so long, my family began to doubt that I’d actually ever publish. My grandmother said to me, “I’ll be dead before I ever get to read anything”—and thus, Kings or Pawns was born. I was inspired to begin the journey here as it is one of the most diverse in sub-genres and holds a great staple of the world-building in the series.

SR: Who is your favorite character in the series and why?

Sherwood: This depends wholly on my mood, but on most days, it is Jikun fairly easily. He is brave but respects fear. He is as noble as he is flawed. His is as sarcastic as he is cynical. I’ve always fancied that sort of character, and so Jikun is my go-to for the first novel. On other days, it’s Alvena, but she’s just downright delightful on any day of the week!

I am so honored to have been privileged to read a piece by such a talented writer. For fans of fantasy and adventure, Kings or Pawns would be a fun read! JJ Sherwood has created an intensely enjoyable high fantasy series that I will definitely continue reading.

 

For more on Sherwood and her work visit her website, Steps of Power. You can also find other blogs on her tour!

What I did this summer….

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In honor of the start of school, I figured a short composition on “what I did this summer” would be fitting. And my summer was truly glorious! I loved it. It was refreshing and life giving. There were some hard parts and some strange parts, but there were far more really, really good parts.

I mentioned a few posts ago that some health issues had kept me from being attentive with my blog. My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of this year. So the biggest “hard part” of my summer was her bilateral mastectomy. As you can imagine, there were so many feels that went along with this. Some of those being prompted by the fact that I had to have the genetic testing done myself.

For those of you who aspire to mutantdom- well, my sister has made it. She is a BRCA mutant. I’m not going to lie, when she told me, there was a part of me that only heard the word “mutant”. I keep asking her when she will begin to shape shift or teleport. She keeps reminding me she isn’t that kind of mutant. So, I made her this: BRCA mutant(You’re welcome XMEN fans who are as annoyed with Jean Grey as the rest of us. Oh, and before you are offended by this post, please remember, we laugh so that we don’t cry. )

Then we spent 4 weeks at a Young Life camp in Weaverville, NC. Although upon arrival at camp, I had a rough couple of weeks as I sorted out my “feels” from the week before – testing and surgery and all that jazz. But the rest…the rest was beyond explanation. My girls awoke, dressed…sometimes in clean clothes, and ran out the door, only to materialize for sustenance.

We woke in the mornings to clear blue skies and a herd of horses in the field next to our cabin. We watched literally hundreds of teenagers pour off buses, expectantly ready for the best week of their lives. We sat with them while they heard the gospel – the greatest love story about the most sacrificial rescue plan ever enacted. We lived for these weeks with other families who had come to Windy Gap just like us, to help lead high school kids to the cross. That was one of the awesome parts of my summer.

After our 4 weeks were completed at camp, we went camping…actual tent camping. We left Asheville and drove to Michigan. We were packed like sardines. We had 4 weeks worth of clothing and belongings from camp, plus allllllllllll our camping gear. Oh….and our dog, Charlie.  She’s a French Brittany and she is pretty amazing and if she could talk, I’m 100% sure she would sound just like Apple Jack from the new My Little Ponies. The night after my sister had her big surgery, I went back to my mother-in-law’s house where we were staying. While I was putting the girls to bed, Charlie ate an entire bottle of junior ibuprofen. Then I took her to the emergency vet where she stayed in the puppy ICU for 48 hours. THAT was one of the strange parts of my summer.

Since she was in the car with us, on the way to Michigan, you can surmise that, no, Charlie did not die. So add that to the feels I was disecting my first week of camp. Anyway, 11 hours and many, many bathroom stops later, we arrived at our destination. Charlie stayed with some family friends while the 5 of us went camping.

We camped for 6 days at 2 different destinations. We swam in Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix. We witnessed sun sets we will never forget. My husband and I sat up by the fire at night and talked, or didn’t talk.  We just sat and were still and it was wonderful. We had such special time with our girls. This is definitely a family vacation we will remember and talk about forever. That was the other really, really good part of my summer.

So, 6 weeks later, we are home. We are settling back in to our routines. School kicks off in a matter of days and my magical creatures are one year further in school. One year closer to going on their own family vacations. So, I will be remembering and savoring hiking a mountain with my girls, watching them dance in the waves of Lake Michigan, hearing their little night noises from inside the tent as we shared a drink by the fire, watching them run unburdened and carefree across Windy Gap, seeing them balance on a paddle board for the first time and all of us sitting in awe and wonder beneath the rolling oranges, pinks and purples of the most magnificent sunset.

In a nut shell, what did I do this summer? I made really magical memories. Oh, and I may or may not have decided that when the zombie apocalypse begins, my family will bug out to a pre-planned destination on Lake Michigan…where we will have tree cover and an endless supply of fresh water and fish.

 

(this message has been approved by a certified BRCA mutant)

 

 

 

4 books to share…

So, I have been catching up on lots of books from me TBR list.  But there are 2 that I have read in the last couple of weeks that I knew nothing about previously and really surprised me with how much I enjoyed them.

  1. The Life We Bury – Allen Eskens

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This is the story of a college student named Joe trying to complete a journalism assignment for a writing class. When the task leads him to aged and ailing Carl Iverson, a Vietnam vet and a convicted murderer, Joe’s entire life takes on a new shape.

My Goodreads review: “The Life We Bury completely took me by surprise. I found it on a fellow bloggers TBR list and thought it sounded interesting. And when I stumbled across it in a used book store I just knew I had to give it a go. I’m so glad I did. Eskens made me love Joe from page one. He is an honest character who has flaws and struggles through life. But he is so capable without coming across as superman. He feels fear and excitement and disappointment. But he can also throw a punch and stand up for himself. I was surprised and pleased with the companion story that follows the main plot line. Joe’s brother and mother add a deeper dynamic to both the novel and Joe himself. Great read!”

(rated R for mature situations and topics; language)

2. The Magician’s Lie – Greer Macallister

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This piece of historical fiction tells the story of the Amazing Arden and is presented from varying POVs. The “present day” portion of the story (1905) takes place over the course of one night and is interspersed with flashbacks to how Ada becomes Arden and ends up telling her story to an officer of the law after being arrested as a suspect in a murder.

My Goodreads review (short but sweet): “Yes. Read this. You want to believe but have no idea what to believe.”

(rated PG-13: for sexuality and intensity)

 

3-4: The last 2 books are similar in topic and subject matter:

Speak: Laurie Halse Anderson 439288

After being sexually assaulted by a high school boy at a summer party, Melinda finds herself plagued by fear, guilt and shame. How can she possibly share this with anyone? With absent parents and friends who abandon her – she finds herself unwilling to speak at all. She becomes the victim of bullying and whispered insults.

Goodreads review: “If you are a teenager, read this. Male or female. If you are a teacher – read it and then teach it. If you are a parent, read it and don’t be Melinda’s parents. Powerful, relevant, thought-provoking, painful, real, educational, redemptive…shall I continue?

(rated PG-13: for subject matter)

 

 

Thirteen Reasons Why: Jay Asher 1217100

Clay wakes up to find a package filled with cassette tapes. As he begins to listen, he finds that they are recorded by Hannah Baker, a girl from his school who recently committed suicide. The set of 13 tapes are her reasons for wanting to end her life. The novel gives haunting insight into the mind of a troubled teenage girl who feels like the moments of life are too much to bear.

(rated PG-13/R: for subject matter and adult situations)

(this audiobook is very well done)

 

If you are a teacher, this summer would be a wonderful time to pick up these two books. Speak is well-written and insightful. Any group of students would benefit from a read like this. Whether it is to give a view of bullying or the effects of sexual assault. The author provides her own thoughts at the end of the novel as well as her experiences with young people who have sent her messages with questions or their own stories of events like this.

Thirteen Reasons Why may not be appropriate for a classroom setting, but it is completely appropriate for insight and recommendation. Events that may seem small to an adult can make or break a teenager. Asher describes the signs and symptoms of depression that Hannah begins to express. She feels lost, alone, and invisible. How many people pass through our doors or beside us feeling the same way. Let’s not be the teacher/adult/friend who fails to hear the silent cries for help that are screaming for rescue.

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Check out the song “I’m Not Waving I’m Drowning” by song writer Ryan Long:

 

“I’m not waving I’m drowning

What do you care about me

I’m starting to doubt

That I will ever be anything but alone

I fall on my knees and I’m begging you please

Take all my pain and give me some peace”

 

“I’m Not Waving I’m Drowning” is a relevant song to anyone who is lost in that lonely dark place and feels the desperateness of grasping at empty air in an attempt to claw back into the light. Long’s music speaks to the need we all have to fulfill a longing in our hearts that we can’t quite seem to fill.

Take a look at his website ryanlong.com for more information!

 

 

The Revenent: A Novel of Revenge

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Ok, so, oddly enough, I married someone who does not “love” to read. Well, that isn’t entirely true. He enjoys reading non-fiction – almost always Christian – books on growth. All of which are wonderful and from which he has learned a great deal.

But when I come across a story that starts out as exciting as The Revenent: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke, I will inevitably toss it his way. On this particular day, I handed him the book saying, “Just got this and I think you might actually like this one!” He proceeded to take a glance and begin reading. So engrossed was he in the story of Hugh Glass’s betrayal, that he read into the night until he had finished.

Granted this novel is not entirely fiction, the prose is presented in a way that paints an entrancing picture of the mid-western plains in the early frontier more vividly than most historical accounts. As a reader, I was dragged into the burning anger Glass feels towards his betrayers. His plight to regain his health and survive the savage brutality and unpredictability of the Pawnee and other Native American attacks and devastating weather made me ache with cold and twitch at the thought of arrows whizzing past.

Punke includes historical notes at the end of Glass’s story. In these notes, Punke reveals what facts he had researched and which parts of his story were added or changed to complete the tale to the best of his ability. Punke’s version of the Hugh Glass story is not the only account. There are others to be read. This particular version focuses on the revenge that Glass wants to seek against those who abandoned him after being attacked by a grizzly bear. And although the title is “A Novel of Revenge”, I found it to also be a story of redemption and change.

This is an exciting and moving tale of anger, betrayal, surrender and life. The historical nature of Hugh Glass’s story adds a certain sense of intrigue and mystique. The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge is definitely one to be added to the TBR pile! (rated PG-13/borderline R – for graphic violence and brutality)

 

**Normally I like to recommend a movie if one has been made based on a book. I do NOT wish to do that at this point. I was sadly disappointed in the cinematic adaptation of this story. Feel free to watch it and judge for yourself, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!