Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Truth Teller (Julie)

I found Truth Teller on Amazon as a free download and decided to give it a try. This is what Amazon has to say:

How could a modern day girl like Charlotte ever envisage that magic really exists? Even with her own vivid imagination, the place for other realms belonged in a child’s fairy tale. Or so she thought, until she stumbled across a hidden curio shop and an even stranger shopkeeper. He gives her a gift that resembles an antique snow dome, but this is not an ordinary globe. The world Charlotte has always known disappears as she’s spirited away into a mystical land.

This is the beginning of a lifelong friendship that changes Charlotte’s life forever. Discovered by a young elf alone in the forest, she embarks on a journey in search of a group of travelling Entertainers. She encounters heart-stopping dangers and real life monsters, but a far greater threat shadows her every move. Even the strength and skill of her new found companions cannot protect her against a ruthless druid assassin. But in this realm, Charlotte is not the vulnerable little girl she thought she was.

Truth Teller was a short read about a 10-year old girl who is transported to a magical realm. K. Chambers did a good job making Charlotte a typical young girl who is still sweet but can be whinny too. She's not presented as your above average girl who is brave and can work wonders. She's normal. Which was nice. 

I did have a few issues with it though. Book one only gives a glimpse of the power that Charlotte possesses in the magic realm. I didn't get a good feel for why she was important to the story other than she was a young girl trying to get back home. She becomes the Truth Teller in that world, but after reading the book, I couldn't really tell you what that means. I also would have loved to see the magic world fleshed out more, but maybe that comes later in one of the other books. 

Overall, I'd give it a 3 stars out of 5.

Last thought. The author is British, and it was very interesting to read some of the British slang words Charlotte uses=)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Top 3 Christmas Desserts (Lizzie)

One of the best things about the Christmas season is the food. It's not especially healthy and is difficult if you have issues with certain foods (like anything containing gluten, which is almost everything baked), but, forgetting that for a moment, I'd like to share some of my favorite desserts. Be sure to share yours in the comments!

1. Fruit cake cookies

My mom makes these, and I love them, all the candied fruits and nuts jammed together in a little odd-shaped mound of goodness.

2. Pecan Pie

Thanksgiving and Christmas are both times for this Southern tradition. My older sister makes it the best.

3. Sugar cookies

Tasty and can come in fun shapes. I enjoy making these and the similar tea cake cookies each year.

Honorable mention goes to Russian tea cake cookies and the traditional candy canes.

To go along with these, however, I love to drink wassail and hot apple cider, and more hot chocolate than usual.

What are your favorite Christmas desserts?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Behind the Scenes of Rothana by Special Guest Sarah Delena White (Rothana Blog Tour)

In place of my usual Writer's Life post today, we're excited to welcome Sarah Delena White back to Lands Uncharted to celebrate her latest release, Rothana, Book Two in her Star-Fae Trilogy! Sarah stopped by to give her Top 3 Faeries to Meet in Halayda when her debut novel came out, now she's sharing some thoughts on unconventional families and the importance family plays in her series. Enjoy!

What makes someone family? This is a recurring theme in the Star-Fae Trilogy. Family is very important to all of the major characters in some way or other, but it doesn’t always look conventional. None of them have living parents or siblings (at least none that figure into the story). So, what does family look like for them?

When we first met Sylvie in Halayda, she was living in a house full of fae and half-fae orphans she has taken in. Sylvie’s parents died when she was only twelve, and she never had siblings or knew any of her extended family. She knows what it’s like to be alone and vulnerable, and she doesn’t want anyone else to have to experience that. This carries over into the way she relates to Faerie as a whole. Everyone is potential family to her, because deep down everyone is a lost child in need of love (and maybe a time-out). She creates her own family everywhere she goes, and blood relation has nothing to do with it. In fact, if she ever DID find a long-lost blood relative, it would completely throw her for a loop.

Taylan, on the other hand, struggles with the concept of family because of past experiences. He barely knew his parents; they were corrupted by their own magic and then killed by the Star-Fae, leaving Taylan an orphan and a slave at age four. Centuries later, Taylan’s own son, Nikyr, was killed in an assassination attempt meant to take Taylan’s life. Since then, Taylan has kept everyone at a distance so he doesn’t endanger anyone. Now he has a wife and an auxor (cousin/comrade-in-arms relationship), and he cares deeply about them. He still has trouble involving them in the darker parts of his life, though, because he’s afraid he will corrupt them or get them killed. Writing Taylan’s gradual acceptance of love and family has been both one of the best parts of the Star-Fae Trilogy, and also one of the most infuriating (let’s just say he’s a slow learner). Fortunately, both his wife and his auxor are stubborn!

And then there are Diza and Zad. In some ways they’ve had opposite experiences with family. Diza’s parents abandoned her to die in the mortal world after her recessive shadow magic traits manifested, but she found a strange sort of family in the Lyrium. Zad, on the other hand, grew up in a close-knit pooka herd and is still good friends with many members of his extended family (some of whom we meet in Rothana), but his role as a Lyrium Pathminder has broadened his horizons far beyond his upbringing and made him feel somewhat out of place among his old herd. For Diza and Zad, their closest family is each other, but they’re also passionate about connecting with others. They both know what it’s like to feel out of place, and they love to foster friendship and community with those around them. They help bring the rest of the major characters together.

Biological family is a wonderful thing, but I’ve always been drawn to the idea of creating your own family as well. Part of it comes from experience. My extended family is small and scattered. I had no siblings for the first decade of my life, until we adopted my younger brother. I’m now in my early thirties, and marriage and kids are still nowhere in sight. But over the years, I’ve found family in unexpected places: friends, housemates, co-workers, and elsewhere. It’s unconventional, but it’s no less real, and I love showing this sort of family in my books.

I love how the unconventional ideas of family in the Star-Fae Trilogy spring from your own experiences, and I'm looking forward to seeing how these relationships develop as the series progresses! To give a little more context to Sarah's latest book, here is the back cover blurb for Rothana:

A new queen falls. A death lord rises. An ancient foe looms in the shadows.

Sylvie Imanthiya is desperate to lead Faerie well and deepen the bond with her husband, former king Taylan Ashkalabek. But all hope of that vanishes when the winter solstice ceremony ends in disaster, stranding her and Taylan in the Deathrealm, and stripping the kingdom from her.

With Faerie in chaos, Zad and Diza are separated once again: Zad to reconcile with an old mentor to stabilize the kingdom, and Diza to confront the nefarious Casimir in the mortal realm. But Casimir claims that a greater evil seeks to destroy both realms, an evil that Diza’s unique death magic can hold at bay—if she could only remember how.

In the Deathrealm, Taylan is succumbing to the lure of specters from his past, and pushing away Sylvie’s love. Overwhelmed by decay and darkness, Sylvie must summon unexpected magic from the soul of Kyure to fight for her convictions and her husband’s heart.

Shadows divide them. Their friends are in peril. If Sylvie fails, her marriage and her world will fall.

Eeeep, I'm so excited / nervous to read this one! You can purchase Rothana on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or as a signed paperback. Here is a little more about the author:

Sarah Delena White was raised by wolves in an alternate dimension. She writes eclectic speculative fiction that reworks mythology with a fine balance of poetry and snark. She’s an experienced world traveler who loves to weave world folklore and ancient concepts into vibrant, original story worlds. She is the administrative manager for Uncommon Universes Press. When she’s not writing, she can be found making elegant designer bead jewelry, traveling to festivals as a professional ballad singer, drinking tea, and seeking to create the perfect latte. She can be bribed with dark chocolate.

You can connect with Sarah on her website, newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Make sure to stop by the Facebook party celebrating the release of Rothana on Saturday, December 8th. Here's your official invitation from Uncommon Universes Press:

Join Uncommon Universes Press and Laura A. Grace of Unicorn Quester to celebrate the launch of Rothana by Sarah Delena White! Includes games, giveaways, exclusive behind-the-scenes, and more. Also features guest authors Bethany A. Jennings and Morgan L. Busse. Save the date to hang out with these fabulous authors!

And don't miss the rest of the stops on the blog tour, which we've included below. Thank you so much for visiting, Sarah, and congratulations on your new release!

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 26th
- Author Interview – New Authors Fellowship
- Realm Explorers Author Interview – Letters from Annie (Douglass) Lima

Tuesday, November 27th
- Guest Post on Mythology – Fairies, Fantasy, Faith
- Book Review – Becky Gaines

Wednesday, November 28th
- Book Excerpt – Reading on the Edge

Thursday, November 29th
- Character Interview with Sidikas – Becky Gaines

Friday, November 30th
- Character Interview with Casimir – LivForHim
- Behind-the-Scenes Feature – J.M. Hackman
- Author Interview – Dreams and Dragons

Saturday, December 1st
- Book Review – Pages to Explore

Monday, December 3rd
- Author Interview – C. O. Bonham
- Book Review & Excerpt – Coming Up Roses

Tuesday, December 4th
- Behind-the-Scenes Feature – Lands Uncharted

Wednesday, December 5th
- Guest Post on Zad and Pookas – H.L. Burke
- Book Excerpt – Becky Gaines

Thursday, December 6th
- Author Interview & Review – MissBriony.com
- Character Interview with Taylan – Unicorn Quester

Friday, December 7th
- Book Review – Jessica Rachow
- Guest Post on Faerie vs. Sabeylln – Katherine Massengill
- Book Review – Writing with Wolves

Saturday, December 8th
Rothana Facebook Launch Party

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Top Three Gifts for Bookworms (KaLyn)

Most of the people I know, including myself, were hitting the online sales last weekend and into this past week. It was a great opportunity to knock-out about eighty percent of our Christmas shopping without breaking the bank.

There are several book lovers in our family, and, while I love to give the gift of books, sometimes I wonder if they'd enjoy the surprise of something that wasn't a gift card or book on their list. But what else do you get a bookworm?

Here are a few items to consider:

  • Book Themed Socks - Socks are often looped in with less than desirable gifts, but they don't have to be unwanted. Literary-themed socks are both fun and practical, and they come in a variety of styles. 
  • Custom Library Stamp - Great books should be shared. However, it can be hard to keep track of loaned or borrowed books. Having been on both sides of the equation, the personalized library stamp seemed like an appealing solution. (Plus, there's the whole official-library-feel for your inner bookworm.)
  • Book Lovers' Soy Candle - Reading experience is not limited to the book itself. The ambiance of an environment is also a factor. How about the smell of a bookstore or library without leaving home?

Do you have any bookish gift suggestions?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Lauricia)

In his book Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury discusses his habit of making lists and how it helped him generate story ideas. He especially discusses making a list of favorite things and using those things as the basis for his stories. One of the things on his personal list is circuses, which led to his writing of Something Wicked This Way Comes. However, I’m not discussing either of those books today. I mention them only because I imagine Stephanie Garber having circuses on her list of favorite things every time I think of her book Caraval.

Caraval is the tale of Scarlett Dragna, who seeks to free her sister and herself from an abusive father by escaping into an arranged marriage. The only bright spots in Scarlett’s life are her sister and the hope of one day attending Caraval, a once-a-year performance game that is a cross between a carnival and a season of the television reality show Survivor, but with magic thrown in. In this game, players look for clues hidden throughout a small city on an island owned by an enigmatic figure known only as Legend. The first player to find all of the clues wins the grand prize: the fulfillment of a single wish. For Scarlett, winning Caraval could mean achieving her greatest desire.

Scarlett’s sister Donatella is the complete opposite of Scarlett. Stubborn and willful, Donatella has no problem looking for trouble and is not satisfied with Scarlett's arranged marriage. She has her own reason for wanting to win Caraval, and she does whatever she thinks necessary to make sure she and her sister are invited to the next game.

I love this story because of its unique concept and originality. Caraval combines a Victorian (but not steampunk) setting with mystery and the sense of wonder most children associate with circuses and carnivals. The characters are well drawn, the plot is nicely paced, and the ending is as right as it is satisfying.  If you love young adult/new adult fantasy or magic realism, this is definitely a read for you.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Top 3 Reasons to See The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

I grew up watching a VHS recording of The Nutcracker ballet every Christmas. It was a fantastic production, wondrous and magical. I've loved the story (and the music) ever since and for a while wanted to write a retelling of it. Then I my critique partners and I decided to do anthology of retellings, and I decided to do on of E.T.A Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which inspired the ballet. It was so much fun to write! So much so I ended up with two versions. :) And then it was so much fun to go see a very different retelling in Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. I very much enjoyed the movie, and here are three reasons why you should go see it if you haven't already.

1. A cute, clean story

It was a good story, sad in places for sure, but sweet and clean in a time when many stories aren't. I liked the adventure and the beautiful Victorian setting at the beginning and Clara and Philip (the Nutcracker) were very likable.

2. Amazing music and they sneaked in some ballet

The music, of course, was Tchailkovsky's The Nutcracker Suite. How could you not like it? And they managed to sneak in a bit of ballet as entertainment for Clara in the fantastic world she finds. A little culture for movie goers. :)

3. Familiar faces

I not only enjoyed picking out characters from the The Nutcracker story (and smiling at the fact they gave the nutcracker character the name Hoffman, after the author) but also seeing familiar actors--Keira Knightly as the Sugar Plum Queen and Matthew Macfayden (Little Dorrit and Pride and Prejudice) and Morgan Freeman as Drosselmeier.

All in all, it was a great movie, enjoyable even for the friend who went me who didn't know a thing about The Nutcracker ballet or original story.

Have you seen the movie? If so, did you enjoy it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Writer's Online Life (Julie)

As you know, we live in the age of technology now where we pretty much do everything online. As writers, this has opened up a whole new world for us to gain resources, make connections, and marketing. I've been a bit behind on the whole internet as my biggest writing resource, and am now trying to play catch up.

I first joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and enjoyed their critique groups. In fact, it was the crit group that showed me, in a good way, that I knew nothing about writing. And through a small crit group, I've grown so much!

But other than that, I haven't done anything because I've been so focused on writing my novel. Until recently. Now I'm starting to wade into the depths of the online writing world. My awesome and much more knowledgeable sister has introduced me to some Facebook groups like Realm Makers and Fellowship of Fantasy.

I've really enjoyed being a part of these groups because I've been introduced to many new books and authors of similar interests.  It's a great community where we all have a story to tell (or multiple) and know the struggles other are facing because we have faced them as well. But that's not all! Having a writing community provides encouragement and motivation and accountability for all of us writers and aspiring writers!

What kind of online blogs, sites, and groups are indispensable to you in your writing journey that you would like to share?