Category Archives: Reading

Reading: Cover Reveal for The Stars Are Infinite

I am pleased to present this post from Amber Sky Forbes about her newest book, The Stars Are Infinite. Enjoy!
Chris

Here is the what I think is the gorgeous cover of The Stars Are Infinite!

tsai

It is the sequel to When Stars Die. There will be a third book that I plan to call All Stars Align, which will be the final one in The Stars Trilogy. Here is the blurb for this novel:

Alice Sheraton is slated to be executed as a witch; however, her father spares her. He sends her to Finight Hill, a safe house for witches. Here a Shadowman begins to pursue her, and from this Shadowman she learns she has been bound with a terrible fate since birth: either be a martyr to free witches from their misery, or choose to live knowing her existence will bring on more chaos.

This novel has a December release , and you will know more information later, especially when you sign up for the newsletter.

Now here is an interview with Alice Sheraton so that way you get to know a little bit about her before you begin to read this sequel. There are no spoilers. However, make sure you read the first book before buying this one, or else you will get confused:

Hello, Alice. It must be strange being in an interview for you, especially because you’ve spent much of your life never having any attention drawn to you.

Alice: It’s true. Much of my life has been spent preparing me to find a suitable husband. I did go to a finishing school before coming to Finight, so I do have a great deal of education. At the same time, when I was in the other school, I was taught to never draw any attention to myself. So I am nervous about this. What will my mother think? I used to love painting, until my mother took that away from me. I am well-read, and I had my own collection of books in my room. I loved being with Sara, who liked to get into all sorts of trouble I never agreed with, but did so anyway. These things are memorable, but if my mother ever found out about them, she would beat me with a wooden board.

What are your parents like?

Alice: My father has been nothing but supportive, and I’d like to think that if I had said something about wanting to own my own life, he would have been supportive. My mother, on the other hand, is an alcoholic, which is why I was born as a witch. The Seven Deadly Sins give birth to witches, and I suppose my mother’s continual sin is gluttony.

How has being a witch impacted your life?

Alice: Dreadful. I don’t even want to think or talk about what led up to my discovery. I was imprisoned in a small, dirty room in Governor Branch’s home. He is a horrid, perverted man married to my best friend Sara, who is around my age: I am fifteen. I was slated to be executed, but my father saved me by paying a handsome sum of gold to Governor Branch. He couldn’t refuse the money, so he and Father decided to send me off to a safe house called Finight Hill. It looks like any other finishing school, and it is in a secluded area.

What were your reactions to Finight Hill?

Alice: I was paranoid at first. It’s lovely on the exterior, but it’s rather bland on the inside. My other finishing school was richly furnished, with original paintings, marble sculptures, fresh flowers. It was, I suppose, like the inside of a rich man’s home. Finight had no such decorations. So I was scared. I thought I was sent there to be executed, that my father truly had no idea where he was sending me. Governor Branch wanted me dead, but when I met Pastor Brandon and a boy named Nathaniel, their presence and kindness swept away any paranoia I had.

Tell us about Pastor Brandon and Nathaniel.

Alice: Pastor Brandon is nice but strange. He falls into these fits where he cries out, “Curse is everyone who hangs on a tree!” This is a sentence commonly used right before witch executions. He also coughs up some substance from time to time. I don’t know what it is, but it’s black. Even so, he has made me feel welcomed.

Nathaniel, on the other hand, is beautiful, and I saw that right from the start, though I couldn’t admit it to myself. He’s also troubled. He smokes a lot, he scratches himself, and he’s reckless, but he has made me feel welcomed at Finight, and I accepted his friendship. Master Akilah isn’t too fond of him because of his reckless behavior.

How do you feel about Master Akilah?

Alice: I can’t stand him. Neither can Pastor Brandon nor Nathaniel. He was rude to me my first day there when he introduced me, complaining that I was late, not even welcoming me. He is the one who created the unnecessarily strict rules rules for Finight, where we are watched at all times, as though we are in an asylum. We do have certain activities that we have to do throughout the day, like studying. We can go outside once a week–under strict supervision. Nathaniel is smart enough to evade some of these rules, but it eventually becomes our downfall. After a certain event takes place, the rules become worse. At that point, we can’t even have doors to our rooms.

You hear voices?

Alice: I’m unsure if the voice is real or not. It sounds real. She at first told me Pastor Brandon killed her. Then she told me I should kill him. She said he knew who I was, and I couldn’t make any sense of that. He apparently knows the future. When I fainted and woke up in my room, her final words to me were, “You will be mine.” We all thought it was stress and nerves. I thought I was insane, but I was so certain the voice was real. And it is. It truly is.

Can you tell us who the voice belongs to?

Alice: Her name is Annarelius, a Shadowman, a dead witch. She wants me because I can set the world free from sin, allowing everyone, even witches, into Paradise.

Tell us about this Shadowman.

Alice: I would rather not.

Are there any final words?

Alice: My story…it is mine and mine alone, rife with the darkness that is innate in the life of a witch. It was a very hard story to tell. If witches are not freed, at least my account will make them feel less alone, if my account will even be allowed to exist. Witches are insignificant. We are nothing. Those who used to love us betray us and automatically hate us when they find out we are witches. This was the case with my best friend, Sara. The Vulgate, our bible, indoctrinates people into hating us, which is why they can hate so easily. I am not sure if this hatred will ever be erased. I have never known any allies to stop the hatred. I have never known any witches to start a rebellion. But our world is filled with nothing but cruelty. The ugliness of our world surpasses its beauty. Love is the only beauty that exists, but there isn’t enough of it.

Those are some very harrowing words, Alice, but I know you will be the one to make that change. Thank you for letting me interview you.

Alice:

I hope you enjoyed Alice’s interview and will pick up the already available When Stars Die and the not-yet-released The Stars Are Infinite when you are able to pre-order it or buy it on its release day. Remember it will have a December release date and will be mentioned in a future newsletter.

when-stars

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ImageAbout the Author

Amber Skye Forbes is a dancing writer who prefers pointe shoes over street shoes, leotards over skirts, and ballet buns over hairstyles. She loves striped tights and bows and will edit your face with a Sharpie if she doesn’t like your attitude. She lives in Augusta, Georgia where she writes dark fiction that will one day put her in a psychiatric ward…again. But she doesn’t care because her cat is a super hero who will break her out.

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Milo James Fowler Cover Reveal

 

Yakuza Territory

 

 Yakuza Territory by Milo James Fowler will be available November 7, 2014 from Musa Publishing.       Website    Facebook Amazon    Twitter

 

A detective with no way out.  A telepath with something to prove…

Struggling to survive the night, one private eye must rely on his wits to solve a mystery where he’s outnumbered, outgunned, and trapped inside a police station with a soulless killing machine.

 

I enjoy helping my fellow authors get the word out about their publications and I wish Milo the best of fortune with his new work!

Chris

 

 

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Reading: The Former Hero by Jeffrey Allen Mays

The Former HeroThe Former Hero, by Jeffrey Allen Mays, is a complex novel that I can foresee re-reading several times. I attended a launch party for the novel on Facebook and was fortunate enough to win a signed copy. After receiving it in the mail and reading the first few chapters, I went to my iPad and ordered the e-book from Amazon. Yes—I am the type of person that likes to save (or perhaps preserve) exceptional paperback and hardcover books. The Former Hero paperback will have a special place in my library.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Where to begin this book review is problematic for me because there are so many good aspects to the writing. The sense of place, the mythology of the hero, the concepts of good versus evil, the religious allegory, and the rich tapestry of characters created by the author are all stand-out aspects in the novel.

Sense of Place

When the story begins, it could be set in a modern suburban neighborhood where kids play outside during the summer, have tea parties with dolls, chase butterflies in nearby fields, and draw on the sidewalk with colored chalk. Quickly, though, Mays begins to add layers to this world that only appears ideal on the surface.   Readers learn the police rarely, if ever, patrol the neighborhoods. Laws are simply not enforced. The Mayor, Robert Knox, corrupted the police force and employs madmen and costumed villains with names like “The Bombardier,” “Taser,” and “Viper” to keep the populace under control. The closer the characters get to the geographic center of the city, the worse the corruption grows. Children are kidnapped for the sex trade. Women are sold into forced marriages. People are murdered in the street. Good cops, like one of the main characters, Lt. McCarthy, are few and far between.

What gives story world an additional depth is the research that Lt. McCarthy conducts into the history of the town and the supervillain known as The Minstrel. This type of research is banned by the Mayor, but because of McCarthy’s connections in the police force, he is able to find documents about the earliest settlement in the area. Readers learn about the town from the first settlement days when the physical embodiment of evil, The Minstrel, pulled up to a wooden platform and disembarked from a stagecoach. How the townspeople first fell into corruption—how the Minstrel was able to work her brand of psychological destruction until the townspeople were stained by evil and despair—is slowly revealed through the first-hand accounts available in these historical documents.

Characters

Mays creates his characters with an impressive level of complexity. They are heroes and they are villains; they are flawed human beings and they are monsters; they are drifters, loners, detectives, hypocrites, and sometimes saviors. They might be imbued with mystical powers or they might be insane. Reading through the novel, which shifts section-by-section through various character points-of-view, lets the readers “see” each character from multiple perspectives. For example, readers are introduced to The Former Hero, John Common, through his own rather convoluted thoughts, through the experiences of Penny, a child whose cat he once rescued from a tree, through various reports of so-called health care professionals who work for the Mayor, through flashbacks, through interactions with villains, and through observations of other main characters like Lt. McCarthy.

Part of the enjoyment of the novel is siphoning through these observations to reach the “truth” of the characters. Is John Common the hero Omni-man who has been poisoned and trapped by the Mayor and his henchmen in a medical institution or is he simply a man with delusions of special abilities? Did he save a young man named Jimmy Noble by compassionately healing The Viper’s physical deformities, or did he murder Noble as The Viper claims? Did he really save the city over and over again, or is he mad?

Seriously—Major Spoilers Ahead!

 

Religious Allegory

Years ago when I first read A Light in August, by William Faulkner, my American Lit Professor made a comment that has stuck with me to this day. He said that authors take particular care in naming characters, and if an author uses a name with the initials of J.C., readers should look for an analogy to Jesus Christ. This struck me with the character of John Common in The Former Hero, whose super powers dealt with healing and helping people put past torments in perspective so they can move on and live a better life.

The super villain known as The Minstrel also has an analogy in the Christian religion. Much like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, she started the townspeople on the path to corruption. She is still there in the current day, literally worshiped by the Mayor and his people. As Lt. McCarthy learns through studying the town’s history, she began by sowing discord, and then managed to tempt the wife of one of the settlers, Eva Calhoun, who then tempted her husband, Adam. Instead of the gift of knowledge, though, The Minstrel offers the gift of beauty. It is a false gift and Mays’s description of the temptation, and the fall of Eva and Adam, is one of the most chilling and disturbing scenes in the novel. Adam’s father eventually catches The Minstrel and curses her so her skin changes and becomes scaly like a serpent. He does not disown Adam and Eva completely, but banishes them from their beautiful Eden-like farm in the countryside to live in the now-corrupt town.

 

The Former Hero, by Jeffrey Allen Mays, is not a novel to be read quickly; it is something to be enjoyed and savored; to be analyzed and discussed among friends. It has elements of a mystery, a gritty urban crime drama, a noir detective story, and a superhero comic book. It has a mixture of action, adventure, mythology, philosophy, and spine-tingling horror. It is a novel that readers will continue to re-visit in their own libraries for years to come.

 

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Reading: 10 Minutes a Day Could Change a Child’s Life

This is a moving Public Service Announcement from England concerning the importance of literacy in today’s world.

Ten Minutes a Day Could Change Everything

Find out more: http://save.tc/DCV0

 

 

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Reading: Maureen Daly and YA Literature

seventeenth

 

*First I would like to take a moment to explain the terminology I am using in this post. When I reference Young Adult literature I am describing literature written for teenagers (ages 12 to 19). These works can and do appeal to younger children and to adults as well. For example, my friend’s 70+ year old grandmother simply loves the Hunger Games. She reads it with a different perspective than her granddaughter, but the enjoyment of a good book is the same for both readers no matter their chronological age.*

Young adult literature is a relative new literary genre, but it has a richer history than many critics would credit. Many scholars note that the first book written especially for teenagers is Seventeenth Summer, by Maureen Daly (1942). Prior to Daly’s work, books were written either for children or adults. Works about adolescents existed—just look at Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—but the concept of novels specifically targeting adolescent readers began with the Seventeenth Summer.

Daly’s work interests me because of her ties to the Midwest. Although she was born in Ireland, she grew up in Wisconsin. Seventeenth Summer, which she wrote at the age of seventeen, is set in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It has sold more than a million copies worldwide (Fox, 2006).

The novel is a coming of age story that centers on Angie Morrow. The summer before she leaves for college, she meets the local basketball hero, Jack Duluth, and they fall in love over the course of the summer. Other romances play out in the novel, including those of Angie’s sister and friends, Friz and Margie. By the end of the summer, Angie and Jack face the life-changing decision on whether or not to continue their romance.

Daly explains: “I was so wildly and vividly happy about love and life at a particular time in my existence. I wanted to get all that fleeting excitement down on paper before it passed, or I forgot the true feelings . . . it was not until the reviews came out (and the royalties came in) that I realized I had recorded universal emotions and joys — and people would want to read about them year after year” (Fox, 2006).

But—seventy-plus years out—how does the book hold up? Does it evoke the “universal emotions” that the author believed people “would want to read about” year after year? You be the judge:

“The sun was warm on our backs and Jack stood with water drops running from his hair and glistening on his face. I had a sudden impulse to reach out and run my finger lightly over the even, dark arch of his eyebrows as he stood looking at me. But there was an odd look in his eyes, an odd, warm look that made my lips tingle as his eyes met mine, and I knew it would be better not to touch him, not even to talk to him, just then.” 

Daly wrote a ground-breaking novel that resonated with readers world-wide and introduced a new literary genre. It is hard to overstate her importance on the current literary landscape where young adult novels dominate the bookstores and the movie screens.

Fox, M. (2006). Maureen Daly, 85, Chronicler of Teenage Love, Dies. New York Times: Books. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/29/books/29daly.html?_r=0

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Reading: The Big Read

Book_stack_small

The National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Arts Midwest, created The Big Read program to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and bring the transformative power of literature into the lives of its citizens. It provides people with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities.

In 2006, ten organizations in the United States participated. In 2014 there are now organizations in all 50 states along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Organizations selected to participate in The Big Read receive a grant ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to support their Big Read projects, access to online training resources and opportunities, and educational and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement. The Reader’s material, Teacher’s material, and Audio material are also available free of charge on their web site.

The current program runs from September, 2014 to June, 2015. For a list of participating organizations in your area, please visit The Big Read web site at http://www.neabigread.org/

I was excited to see The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin on the list. Let me know in the comments what books you are interesting in reading/re-reading!

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Reading: Happiness Decoded

Happy Coffee and Book

In the August 2014 issue of Prevention magazine, Kate Lowenstein’s article “Happy on Purpose” presents some interesting ideas on the topic of happiness.

Lowenstein’s article cites psychologist Barbara L. Fredricson’s research on the subject of happiness. Fredricson divides happiness into two categories: Hedonistic and eudaimonic. According to Fredricson, hedonic happiness is “pure pleasure—that delicious but fleeting feeling derived from eating an excellent meal or getting a massage” (as cited in Lowenstein, 2014, p. 69). Eudaimonic is “big-picture, meaningful-life happiness you might get from satisfying work or meditating” (as cited in Lowenstein, 2014, p. 69).

These categories make perfect sense to me as a writer. The type of happiness I experience when I drink a delicious cup of coffee is different than happiness I experience when I write. The feelings from drinking the coffee are fleeting, but the happiness derived from writing lasts. Simply thinking about a story I am working on, or one I have completed, causes a feeling of full-hearted contentment.

In the same issue of Prevention, Susan Ince mentions that hedonistic pleasure can be derived from reading. Ince reports that “just 15 or 20 minutes of reading” can have a positive impact on your emotions (2014, p. 70).

So my two favorite activities—reading and writing—can help maintain the balance of hedonic and eudaimonic happiness that Fredricson believes will help people derive “a bigger positive emotion yield out of everyday events, which in turn feeds our happiness some more” (as cited in Lowenstein, 2014, p. 69).

So what makes you happy? Do you look for hedonistic or eudaimonic happiness? Let me know!

References

Lowenstein, K. (2014). Happy on purpose. Prevention (8), pp. 67-69.
Ince, S. (2014). Read one of these 55 books. Prevention (8), pp. 70-71.

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