Thursday, January 31, 2013

Giveaway and Review: The Black Shard by Victoria Simcox

About the book:

The Black Shard by Victoria Simcox

Kristina's stay at summer horse camp is horrible to say the least, and it's all because Hester and Davina are there as well, making her life miserable. When Hester's cruel prank goes terribly wrong, it's actually what sends the three girls back to the magical land of Bernovem. In Bernovem, Kristina is very excited to see her former friend, Prince Werrien. When he invites her to sail with him on his ship to his homeland Tezerel, putting it simply, Kristina can't refuse.

Reunited with her gnome, dwarf, animal, fairy friends ... and best of all, Werrien, things seem like they couldn't get any better for Kristina. But when Werrien becomes fascinated with an unusual seeing stone, the ''Black Shard'', Kristina is haunted by a ghostlike old hag. Struggling against suspicion, guilt, illness, and ultimately the one who wants to possess her soul, Kristina will see it's in her weakest moment that she will encounter more strength than she has ever known.

My review:

The Black Shard by Victoria Simcox continues the story of Kristina and the magical land of Bernovem. Kristina is now 15 and the awful Hester and Davina are still tormenting her. The girls have completely forgotten their time together and gang up on Kristina while at summer camp. A prank sends the three of them, literally, rolling back into Bernovem and Kristina and Werrien find themselves on another thrilling adventure.

Kristina is thrilled to be back in Bernovem with her friends, including Raymond, Clover, Looper and Ugan. She soon learns, however, that everything is not exactly as it seems when she begins to feel ill and is plagued by visions of an old hag. What is worse is that everyone around her seems completely unaware that anything is wrong.

The story is action packed from the get go and ends with a cliffhanger, leaving the reader anxiously waiting for the third book. The Black Shard is listed as a middle grade read but readers of any age will enjoy this exciting adventure. Readers who enjoy a little romance with their action will also enjoy watching the sweet relationship between Kristina and Werrien unfold. I would suggest reading the Magic Warble first as the story in the second book will be much easier to understand.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Cast Of Stones Blog Tour: Review And Author Interview

About the book:

The Staff and the Sword: Book 1
Bethany House

An Epic Medieval Saga Fantasy Readers Will Love


In the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone's search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who arrives with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he's joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.

Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom's dynasty is near an end and a new king must be selected. As tension and danger mount, Errol must leave behind his drunkenness and grief, learn to fight, and come to know his God in order to survive a journey to discover his destiny.

  My review:

A Cast of Stones begins with Errol Stone, the town drunk, in search of his next drink. Little does he know, when he agrees to deliver a letter for a church messenger that his life will never be the same again.

Patrick Carr’s debut novel is full of action, danger, magic and some great characters. Errol is not your typical hero. At the start of the novel he is controlled by his vice and is full of self doubt, little self worth and has never journeyed beyond Callowford or the neighboring town of Berea. As the story progresses, he discovers his true value and realizes he is strong enough to handle the responsibilities placed on him, whatever they may be. There is also a strong cast of supporting characters who make the story that much better.  

As a fantasy addict I knew I would enjoy this novel and I was not disappointed.  The writing was fantastic and the story kept me up well into the night. A Cast of Stones is a must read for fantasy fans and I’m looking forward to the sequel, The Hero’s Lot!

***I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own***

Book Excerpt:

The woman took another, slow step toward him, her smile stretching the cuts and bruises on her face. "I don't care who kills you boy, but do you really want to die by the borale arrow?" She laughed. "Do you relish feeling it rip and tear its way out of your flesh, leaving you to die from blood loss, screaming in pain?" She nodded back towards Balina. "The captain has a sword, freshly sharpened. He can make your end quick and painless.

"Don't believe her boy," Merodach said. He pitched his voice to carry over the flood below. "A malus never kills quickly. they feed on pain. Come with me. I can take you to safety." He took a step.

Errol tried in vain to watch everyone. The pounding of his heart merged with the flood waters. He cast the briefest of looks down, fought to keep from sobbing. The roiling depths were too far away to survive a jump.

He was going to die. All that remained was to choose between the arrow, the sword and the water.

Without turning his back to Merodach or the malus-possesed woman, he climbed the railing.

The three of them inched forward.

"Come, boy." The woman's voiced crooned. "There's no need for such a death." Her voice grew mocking. "Don't you want to be buried in your faith? Don't you want the priest to bless your grave?"

"Errol, don't." Merodach's voice cut across the woman's.

For a moment, something in the assassin's voice penetrated the fog that clouded his thinking. Could he be telling the truth? If he'd wanted Errol dead, he could have simply fired. It would be impossible to miss at this range. But that would leave Merodach open to counter-attack by the malus and her guard.

He didn't want to die. Errol took a tentative step toward the assassin, tried at once to ignore the arrow aimed at his chest and brace for its impact that would kill him.

An animal like snarl erupted from behind him. Merodach raised the bow, drew.

He launched himself into space, heard the whine of the borale's arrow merge with a cry of rage and pain.

The water rushed up at him.

About the Author:

Patrick Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of the cold war. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every three years until his father retired to Tennessee. Patrick saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and has worked as a draftsman at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and consulted as an engineer. Patrick’s day gig for the last five years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz pianist. Patrick thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I teach Geometry (I can hear the groans now – 2 column proofs) and spend a lot of time around the activities of my sons. I have two in college and two in high school, so that’s starting to slow down a bit. I do a bit of woodworking, but would really like to go back and pick up piano lessons again. I’d like to learn how to play jazz. Mary and I are on the verge of being empty-nesters so we’re trying to feel our way through that. It’s kind of weird.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

My dad was a great storyteller. Couple that with my own voracious reading habit and writing kind of followed from that. I used to read to my kids a lot when they were young and decided to write a story with them as the protagonists. I had tried a few things before, but that’s when writing really became a passion.

3. Are there any authors or books that have influenced you in any way?

There are way too many to list. Fantasy in the last thirty-five years has been fortunate to have some incredible writers. I would probably say David Eddings is my favorite. I think I’ve read The Belgariad a half-dozen times and it wouldn’t bother me to read it a few more. His dialog is just so good. After him, I enjoy settling into Stephen R. Donaldson, Guy Kay, Robert Jordan, and Raymond Feist. I would love to meet some of these guys. I would probably babble, but it would be worth it.

4. Do you have any interesting writing quirks?

Coffee is a real help. I don’t know if that’s a quirk, because so many of my friends say the same thing. We just finished Christmas and I have to tell you nothing gets my writing moving better than a piece of fudge and a cup of coffee. Other than that, I’ve noticed that I can edit under any circumstances, but when it comes to writing a first draft, the environment has to be exactly right.

5. How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
I’ve written six. A Cast of Stones is the first in a trilogy. The second book is titled The Hero’s Lot and I would have to say it’s my favorite at this point. That’s probably a little strange because it’s the middle volume and sometimes those are kind of placeholders, but I love the way the characters developed in the story and there are so many powerful scenes that I could do there because I didn’t have the world-building overhead.

6. What was the hardest part of writing A Cast of Stones?
Coming up with a beginning. I started the book back in 2006. I had three or four chapters that I really liked, but it just didn’t feel quite right. So I shelved it for about three years. Then in late 2009 I had this idea for a totally different direction for the beginning. I wrote the first few pages and ran them by my sister (she’s my alpha reader). She loved it. That’s when I knew I was on the right track.

7. What are you currently reading? What's your favorite genre?
It’s difficult for me to write if I’m reading someone else’s stuff so I have to save up for when I’m between books. I hate that because there’s so much out there I enjoy. I went through a phase this last summer when I read a lot of detective novels. I started with the old stuff first, you know, Raymond Chandler who gave us Phillip Marlowe. A friend suggested I try a couple of books from The Dresden Files. I was surprised at how similar the two voices were even though they were written 60-70 years apart. That just goes to show there’s no time limit on good writing.

8. Can you tell us a little bit about your next book?
The tension in the story ratchets up quite a bit, not only for the danger the kingdom of Illustra is in, but for Errol personally. There’s a character I introduce at the end of “The Hero’s Lot” that I dearly love. His name is Hadari. In fact, I liked him so much that I’m rewriting some of the third book so that he’s more prominent.

What's the best place for readers to connect with you?
The best place to find me is on my personal author page or on facebook. I don’t twitter (yet) because I’m not sure I have anything to add in that medium yet and time is a pretty scarce resource right now. I’d love for people to stop by and say high. Feedback for a writer is so important.