Posts By: PaulineMRoss

New release round-up: books I’m looking forward to reading

September 10, 2016 Books that caught my eye 0

Once again, my backlog of books to be read is growing and, with two new releases of my own this month, the time for reading has shrunk alarmingly. I hope to catch up a bit next month when I’ll be off to Australia for three weeks, with my trusty Kindle fully charged. Until then, here are some recently released books that I’m really excited about reading.

Finally, finally a sequel to the amazing The Healers’ Road by S E Robertson, which was a five star read for me back in 2014. I described it as literary fantasy, a beautifully written story of two very different people thrown together and gradually inching towards an accommodation as they travelled about offering their opposing styles of healing skills as needed. In The Healers’ Home, the two have a settled place to live for the first time. I can’t wait to find out how they adjust to a very different way of life. You can read my review of the previous book here.

Here’s one that I should have mentioned before, because it’s been out for a while. For The Wildings is the final installment of Kyra Halland’s six-part Daughter of the Wildings series, a western/fantasy/romance mash-up that I’ve absolutely loved. The mixture of magical fireworks with cowboy-style shoot-em-ups is something that really shouldn’t work, but absolutely does. Combine that with Halland’s customary elegant world-building and a gentle romance, and this whole series is a winner. I’m looking forward to finding out how it ends. You can read my review of Beneath The Canyons, the first part of the series,  here.

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Urban fantasy review: ‘Gathering Black’ by Jen Rasmussen

September 7, 2016 Review 0

Oh, that difficult second book of the series. The first is always full of surprises, every quirk of the author’s created world new and fresh. The final part is the big battle where evil is defeated, all the wrongs are set right and everything ends on a happy note. And then there are those middle books (this is the second in a planned five-book series). It’s very easy to drop the ball at this point, but here the author distracts with plenty of action and a whole heap of mysteries. Where are these precious sapwood seeds that both sides want so badly? Who is the traitor in the clan that’s supposed to be protecting them? And most of all, who can be trusted and who’s following their own agenda?

The most delightful aspect of this series, for me, is the concept of place magic, something that our heroine, Verity, has been using in a small way all her life, but began to realise in the first book of the series, Grim Haven, was far more powerful than she’d realised. I loved the way she protected herself and those around her by writing little magical notes stating that nothing will happen, everything will be fine, no one gets hurt. And she found an ingenious way to protect the whole of the hotel she’d inherited. But now she has to step up and find even more powerful ways to develop her magic, and this whole book is a series of lurches and missteps in that direction. The author makes it a real struggle for her to progress and that felt very realistic.

As for the characters, Verity’s a truly likable heroine, not in any way the typical kick ass female so beloved of this genre, although she’s obviously incredibly powerful in her own way. She feels, mostly, like a regular person doing the best she can, facing up to the inevitable but cleverly and never, ever giving up. New introduction Arabella is far more the conventional kick ass type, and gorgeous with it. Cue all sorts of female uncertainties, because there’s also Cooper, Verity’s boyfriend. I really liked Cooper in book 1. This book? Not quite so much. There was far too much all-round grumpiness for my liking, and not enough be-nice-to-Verity moments. Come on, Cooper, appreciate her a little more openly, please. We readers want a good quota of heartwarming lovey-doviness.

The plot — well, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. Our heroes step up to the plate and try to do what needs to be done without getting killed. Or worse. There are some pretty horrifying moments in this book, so the overall tone is kind of downbeat at times. Still, there are some delicious punch-the-air moments, too, unexpected outbreaks of humour and the setpiece battles are very well done. Overall, I found it a somewhat darker book than the last one, but the battle for the sapwood seeds is building up nicely. Looking forward to the next installment. Four stars.

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The Brightmoon world has a map!

September 4, 2016 The Second God 2

In less than three weeks, on 23rd September, The Second God will be released, my seventh epic fantasy, yet up to now there’s never been a map of any part of the Brightmoon world. But this book is a little different, it covers a wide area of the southern Plains of Kallanash, and with multiple plot strands taking place simultaneously at different locations, it was time to bite the bullet and become a proper, grown-up fantasy author. I have a map! It was drawn for me by Write.Dream.Repeat Book Design, using map elements by Ignacio Portilla M.

And here it is:

mapofsouthernplainsofkallanash

Most of the Brightmoon books so far take place within this map. Here’s how they fit in:

The Plains of Kallanash: in the Karningplain.

The Fire Mages: in Bennamore.

The Mages of Bennamore: in the Port Holdings.

The Magic Mines of Asharim: at the top of the Sky Mountains (but mostly off the map).

The Fire Mages’ Daughter: in Bennamore and the Blood Clans’ land.

The Dragon’s Egg: mostly off the map.

The Second God: everywhere south and west of Greenstone Ford.

I hope this will be useful while you read the book.

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Authors Answer 17: What authors, styles or intellectual movements have most influenced your writing?

August 19, 2016 AuthorsAnswer, Regency romances, Writing musings 0

For the fantasy, I can’t honestly say that anything has really influenced my writing. I haven’t read a vast amount in the genre, and what I have read is mostly of a type I wouldn’t wish to emulate. Game of Thrones is too dark and nihilistic. Robin Hobb is downright depressing — beautifully written work that I hated. The authors whose work I most admire — Mark Lawrence, Daniel Abraham, Glenda Larke, Guy Gavriel Kay — are so brilliant I feel embarrassed to call myself a writer. My own work is such a mishmash of genre tropes that if someone asks me: “What other books are like yours?” I genuinely can’t answer. This isn’t a boast, by the way — it’s a Very Bad Thing not to be able to place your own books in the pantheon of genres. It’s embarrassing, and the result of ignorance of the genres rather than the genius of my creative mind.

For the Regency romances, I can actually answer this question! Phew! Jane Austen is the ultimate and original Regency romance writer, and although I could never aspire to her glorious wit or brilliance with words, the general principle of the story being the courtship, peppered with obstacles and misunderstandings and a slow realisation of love, is the ideal I try to follow. The books end with the accepted proposal, the presumed happy married life is never seen, and that, too, is my policy, although I do allow my couple a passionate kiss or two, so that modern readers will understand how well-suited they are.

The other shining light of traditional Regency romances is Georgette Heyer, a twentieth-century author whose books are convincingly of the era, with plots which are light and frivolous. These are the original Regency romps, with beautifully witty dialogue peppered with slang. I have some issues with Heyer, finding the romances too minimal sometimes, and the plots too silly for words. She also allows her very deep research to overwhelm the story occasionally. But the fluffy style is very much one I try to emulate.

Modern Regency authors? Not so much. I find most of them impossible to read, with heroines who behave in most unladylike ways, a metric ton of sex, and a very liberal interpretation of historical accuracy. I’m not a stickler for historic detail, but five minutes on Wikipedia surely wouldn’t hurt, would it? Then there are all the big frocks on the cover, the random forms of address (Lady Penelope and Lady Smith are NOT interchangeable terms!) and an England seemingly populated entirely by Dukes (hint: there are and always were very, very few of them).

As for intellectual movements… ha ha ha! No. I can safely say that no aspect of my writing has been influenced by anything resembling an intellectual movement.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Authors Answer 16: What are your favorite online resources/websites for writers?

August 15, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

I haven’t done any of these for a while, so duck while I lob my backlog out there…

This is an interesting question, because the resources needed vary depending on where you are in your career path. The information you need when you first begin (what exactly makes a compelling protagonist?) is very different from what’s wanted after you publish (where can I advertise my books?). So here are some sites that have been useful to me as I developed my writing and publishing skills.

For writing: Mythic Scribes

When you’re in the early stages of writing – your first book, or perhaps still dabbling with world-building – what you really need is a community of like-minded people. Even when you’ve read all the craft books, it can still be tricky to apply the advice to your own work. Should I introduce my antagonist earlier? Is this a punchy opening paragraph? First person or third? To prologue or not? And fellow authors are the only people who can endlessly mull over those difficult questions of adverbs, passive voice, show-don’t-tell and so on without getting bored. And for fantasy writers in particular, there are not many places where you can ask how long it would take a person to die from a sword wound (although I imagine writers of murder mysteries and gun-based thrillers have pretty awkward research topics, too). Mythic Scribes is a forum for fantasy writers, and it was a huge help to me when I first started writing seriously.

For critique: Scribophile

There comes a point when you have something written that you’re quite pleased with. Finally, after all that struggle, something that might be publishable! But first, it’s vital to put it in front of other writers to see what they think of it. Can’t you do that with a writing forum like Mythic Scribes? Of course, but to my mind it’s better to show your work in a place that’s geared specifically for critique, full of objective strangers who won’t tone it down because they chat with you about Game of Thrones in another part of the forum. Scribophile is my favourite critique site. You earn points (’karma’) by critiquing the work of others, then you spend karma to have your work critiqued in turn. Not all critiques are useful, but collectively they are acutely rigorous and analytical. And there are forums and special interest groups as well.

For testing the waters: Wattpad

The disadvantage of critique groups is that, because it’s focused on single-chapter analysis, it’s hard to get a perspective on how a whole book looks to a reader. You can try to find beta readers for this, but one alternative is Wattpad. This is, strictly speaking, a social media site, which revolves around authors posting whole books one chapter or scene at a time. Readers follow the story as it unfolds and will comment on their reactions as they read each part. For author/reader interaction, it’s unparallelled, but the potential for objective critique is limited. It’s also possible, if authors write as they post, for readers to influence the route a story takes. I used Wattpad to post my first fantasy novel, The Plains of Kallanash, and it was a fun way to find out whether readers will follow the whole story or lose interest part way through, but it’s no substitute for detailed critique or beta readers.

For marketing and post-publication: Kboards Writers’ Cafe

Once you reach the point of publication, the focus changes. You’re no longer quite so worried about passive voice and overuse of gerunds, but about covers, ebook formatting, the vagaries of print on demand and how to get reviews. For self-publishers, there’s a wealth of information out there, but the best of it, and the most up-to-date, is at the Writers’ Cafe, a sub-forum of Kboards. This is populated by people who are, in the main, focused on self-publishing as a career, so the talk is more about writing to market and promotional campaigns than about writing as an art form. This is the place to meet other self-publishers, both those who are just starting out and those who have several years of experience under their belt, those who sell a book or two a month and those who earn six figures a year.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Mystery review: Awash by Dawn Lee McKenna

August 15, 2016 Review 0

Book 6 of the Forgotten Coast series already, and still more to come. Anyone who’s read this far will know what to expect — fascinating characters, lots of drama, plenty of humour and McKenna’s trademark brilliant dialogue, where the subtext beneath the words stretches halfway to the earth’s core. Never have characters said so much with so few words. I don’t always fully understand exactly what it is they’re saying (or not saying) but trying to work that out is part of the fun.

For anyone whose interest is in the crime-of-the-moment, with the personal lives of the characters a minor note, this isn’t the series for you. Here the characters are what it’s all about, and again in this book the crime to be solved is deeply connected to Maggie, the female cop who is the heart of the series. Maggie was raped as a teenager, and when she’s called to investigate a very similar case to her own, she becomes deeply involved.

While the case is absorbing and heart-rending, it’s the slow progression of Maggie’s own emotional life that’s the most riveting part of this series. As Maggie and Wyatt inch towards a proper relationship, and possibly marriage, her fascination with the local crime lord, Bennett Boudreaux, threatens to derail everything. I love both her two men. Boudreaux epitomises southern courtliness, even while he has a history of ruthlessly dispatching anyone who falls foul of him. And Wyatt is just beyond-words awesome, with his dry humour and not-totally-relaxed-about-it tolerance of Maggie’s relationship with Boudreaux. The oh-so-polite macho posturing between the two men at the oyster bar is just superb, capped only by Maggie’s meeting with Boudreaux at the end, with its multiple layers of meaning. Did I mention how much I love McKenna’s dialogue? Brilliant stuff.

Another cracking read in this series. Five stars.

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Fantasy review: Radiance by Grace Draven

August 15, 2016 Review 0

This is one of those curate’s eggs books, for me – good in parts. It was recommended in a discussion on the fantasy subreddit as a book that tackles the difficult question of romance in a fantasy setting well, and in particular a romance between two people of different races, and yes, that’s definitely one of the good parts. The fantasy part? Not quite so successful.

The romantic couple are the heart of the book. Brishen is a prince of Bast-Haradis, the no-longer-needed younger son, traded in marriage to secure an alliance with the neighbours. Ildiko is equally unwanted, the orphaned neice of the Gauri king. She is human, a red-haired child of sunlight. He is Kai, grey-skinned and nocturnal. Both are accounted good-looking to their own race, but are ugly to each other. The book opens with their arranged marriage, each of them dutifully fulfilling their role but nervous about the ‘otherness’ of their marriage partner.

They quickly find that beauty is more than skin deep, and a meeting of minds can be just as rewarding as physical attraction. If I have a quibble with the romantic elements, it’s that they get along with each other rather too quickly, and neither of them ever makes a mistake, says the wrong thing, offends the sensibilities of the other, even inadvertently. It was all a bit too perfect. I would have liked a little more conflict between the two of them before (surprise!) they each decide that the other is all right really, and (eventually) settle into wedded bliss. Be warned that the sex, when they do get round to it, is a long-drawn-out affair.

If the main characters are beautifully drawn, and their relationship totally believable, the others are less well realised. They fall into traditional good/evil roles and Brishen’s parents, in particular, are so ludicrously over-the-top cartoonishly evil that I just rolled my eyes. And the scenery is full of an array of enemies who leap out from behind rocks for a killing spree at every verse end. It got tedious, and I confess to skimming the last third of the book.

I’d have given the romance alone 4* and the fantasy 2*, so I’ve settled on a final score of 3*. If you’re more tolerant of the conventional good guys/bad guys dichotomy, and the cross-race romance intrigues you, I can recommend this. It’s very well-written and this is just the start of the series, so it may be that the fantasy side of things comes to the fore in the later books. And I guarantee that you’ll never look at a pie (or a potato!) in quite the same way again.

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Mystery review: ‘Deadly Web’ by Mike Omer

August 5, 2016 Review 0

“If there was one single reason to be a man, it was the ability to pee in a bottle.” With this opening line, you know at once that this isn’t just another police procedural mystery — this is a Mike Omer mystery, and that means large dollops of humour mixed in with the serial killers and blood. I’m not normally a fan of police procedurals (give me a cozy any day), but I’ll read anything this man puts out. I love his books.

I enjoyed the first in the Glenmore Park series, Spider’s Web, but this one is even better. The characters are becoming even more finely drawn than before, and this time the crimes to be solved seemed more realistic and the police handling a tad more sensible. I also liked that the two cases to be solved didn’t turn out to be somehow related at the end. Or perhaps I should more cautiously say, if there was a connection between them, it whizzed over my head (which is always possible).

The twist to both cases is that they revolve around the internet (a theme of the series – the web of the titles). One murder victim has a secret online identity harrassing women. The other has a secret online identity in a computer game. Trawling through the victims’ social media presence is a critical part of the police investigation, and I absolutely loved the time when the cops had to go into the game to interview a witness. A classic moment!

If you like police procedurals with compelling characters, intriguing mysteries and some laugh-out-loud moments, I highly recommend this series. Five stars.

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Fantasy review: ‘The Cauldron’s Gift’ by Marina Finlayson

July 22, 2016 Review 0

This is one of those series that’s everything I don’t normally read: it’s YA with a teenage girl as the main character, there’s a shedload of school drama and boyfriend angst, it’s written in first person, and, would you believe it, the protagonist turns out to have unusually strong magical powers. As a rule, I’d be running a mile. But this is by Marina Finlayson, the author who seduced me into enjoying werewolves and other shifters, so it not only works, it works brilliantly.

In The Fairytale Curse, Vi and twin sister CJ found themselves spitting frogs and diamonds respectively, while others around them were turned into the sleeping beauty, an ogre and a polar bear. It turned out the Sidhe were escaping from their magical captivity, but Vi and friends managed to lock them up again, at the price of losing one of the four artifacts that kept them there, the magic cauldron that grants wishes (and wouldn’t we all like one of those!). And Vi’s dad is still a polar bear. So in this book, the race is on to find a cure for dad before he becomes so deeply immersed in beardom that nothing can make him human again. And it seems like the only way is to bring that cauldron back from fairyland. Yikes!

This one took a while to get going, but it was never the slightest bit dull and (a huge bonus for me) the events of the last book were skilfully woven in, so that I never wondered what was going on or why. All the characters are believable and behave rationally, not something that can be said for all fantasy. And they’re sympathetic too — my heart bled for Zak, and for the poor neglected ogre that nobody ever seems to think about. There’s a mystery to be solved, as well — who is the traitor helping the Sidhe to escape? Once the pace picks up around the mid-point, it’s relentless and the book becomes unputdownable. As always with Finlayson, nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems, and just when you think everything’s settled, she swipes you upside the head with another brain-rattling twist of sheer brilliance.

A terrific sequel, full of action, believable characters and the author’s Australian humour. Oh, and a starring role for some of Sydney’s great landmarks. Highly recommended. Five stars. Can’t wait to see where this goes next.

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New release round up: books I’m looking forward to reading

July 6, 2016 Books that caught my eye 0

Confession time – I don’t read as much as I used to. In prehistoric times (2011-2013), I routinely read two books a week, more than a hundred over the course of a year. Sometimes I read an entire series of books one after the other, and not short, light reads, either – my preferred genre was (and is) epic fantasy. Fast forward a few years and there just isn’t the time any more for that kind of consumption. My writing has gradually eaten away at my free time, and I’ve got to the point where I only get sustained reading done when I’m travelling. I’d like to pretend that I’m pressured by fans to write more, and publish faster, but actually I just love writing! So no one to blame but myself.

What this means is that there are lots of books coming out that I plan to read and review when I get the opportunity, but I really want you to know about them right now, so I’m going to be doing these mini-roundups quite regularly. Even though I haven’t read these books yet, I’m happy to recommend them, either because I’ve read the previous books in the series or because I’ve read other books by the author. These are all authors whose work I love!

So, here we go.

Bloodbonded: Amy Rose Davis

I absolutely loved Ravenmarked, the first in the Taurin Chronicles, saying that “…it just wraps itself around you like a warm duvet. There’s a strong warrior with a secret, an innocent long-lost heiress to the throne, a prophecy, a rebellious princess, a usurper with a conscience and lots of magic, and although this sounds terribly clichéd, Davis gives it all a fresh feel and a bit of romantic fairy dust.” This is the long-awaited second installment of this sweeping epic fantasy.

The Cauldron’s Gift: Marina Finlayson

I’ve loved everything Finlayson has written, and her trilogy, The Proving, which opened with Twiceborn, was the book that got me to love werewolves, not to mention a whole raft of other shifters – including dragons! The unique Australian setting and fast pace made the whole series unputdownable. Her next venture was into a fairy tale retelling, The Fairytale Curse, and although it’s more YA (young adult) that The Proving, it was just as action-packed, featuring the author’s trademark Aussie humour. This new book is the second and final part of the Magic’s Return series (ETA: my mistake – it’s a trilogy).

Awash: Dawn Lee McKenna

This is part 6 of the Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense series, which is far more about the characters and their intertwined lives than the actual murders. Great dialog, great humour and a brilliantly evoked and atmospheric setting, which is almost as good as being there. If you want to start at the beginning, look for Low Tide, and if you want more of McKenna’s writing, her stand-alone love story, See You, is one of the finest books I’ve ever read.

Deadly Web: Mike Omer

I’m not usually a fan of serial killer books, because body parts – ew! But Omer’s eccentric cast of characters and laugh-out-loud humour makes the Glenmore Park series unmissable for me. Watch out for the unforgettable Rabbi Friedman! This is part 2, and the first in series is Spider’s Web.

Enjoy!

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