Friday Fandom: ALL THE FANDOMS!

Okay, not really ALL the fandoms! But we have tons of awesome, fun trailers to share with you today!

In no particular order, we shall begin!

First, SHERLOCK!

Yes! Yes! Yes! Sherlock never disappoints me and I am so excited for this Victorian Christmas Special.

Next, SHADOWHUNTERS!

 

I’m super excited for SHADOWHUNTERS. I wrote a Fandom Post about this here. The acting is a little cheesy, but I love the casting choices, and I think the changes are going to be great. I think with this one, we want to think of the series as a adaptation of the books.

You can see more sneak peaks of SHADOWHUNTERS here and here!

And last is the PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES trailer!

Can I just say, I want to watch this movie sans Zombies?! I love Lily James as Elizabeth Bennett! Initially, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch this movie, but I think it will be both hilarious and kickass!

Tell us what you think! Which fandom are you most excited for? Which trailer did you enjoy most?

Author’s Couch: Q&A with Brenda J. Pierson

I’m so excited to have Brenda with us today! She’s a crit partner, conference bestie, and self-published author, plus co-editor of the forthcoming solarpunk anthology, WINGS OF RENEWAL. She’s on the couch today talking about her debut novel, SOUL OF THE BLADE, her insights on self-publishing, and what she’d love to see on the shelves.

-Nicole

Soul of the BladeSynopsis

Humanity has been prey to the Entana for centuries, their thoughts and emotions fed upon by the spiritual parasites. Once taken, only death can save someone from the torment of the Entana’s feeding. And only the Taronese warriors and their enchanted sword, the Bok’Tarong, can give them that death.

But the Bok’Tarong has been taken by the selfish assassin Aeo, and the sword has devoured his soul. He now exists within the blade, only able to experience the world through his new bearer Dragana. She would do anything to cast him out of the blade and restore its sanctity. But Aeo alone may hold the key to stopping the Entana once and for all … if Dragana can learn to work with the assassin who has cost her people so much.

Q&A

1. What’s the story behind the story? Tell us a little about where you got the idea for your book.

For a long time, the project name of what would become Soul of the Blade was The Vicodin Child. I had recently had wrist surgery and was still on periodic painkillers when my family went to the mountains for vacation. I found a piece of driftwood that looked neat so (naturally) I kept it. In a Vicodin dream-fog that piece of wood became the Bok’Tarong, a sentient sword with a bit of an attitude. Things got a little out of hand from there but eventually that story became the heart of Soul of the Blade.

BFF: Haha, love this backstory!

2. What’s your personal favorite part about the story? A character you loved writing, a scene that gives you shivers in all the best ways, etc.
Oh goodness. There are so many parts I’m really proud of. I love the climax, of course, and the scene where they go to the -taken sanctuary has always been special to me. But I think one of my most favorite things is a single line: “They don’t call me the Keeper of Secrets for nothing.”

3. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
I tend to write a lot about overcoming darkness inside yourself, and about having the freedom to become the person you want to be instead of who you should be. I always want to show readers that just because you struggle with something, or you’re forced to play a certain part in life, that doesn’t have to define you. You can break free of that.

BFF: This is such a powerful and important message. It’s part of what helps us relate to characters and want to follow them through their adventures.

4. Who/what are some of your favorite authors or books? Can you share how they’ve inspired you?
It’s a very dangerous thing to ask a writer about favorite books. More often than not you’ll get more than you bargained for. Well, the first name to always make it onto my list is Brandon Sanderson. The man is a fantasy god. Mistborn is one of my top ten novels of all time, because it has everything—neat magic, amazing characters, tension, drama, romance, sacrifice, twists, and a world that is so alive you get lost in it. Other authors on my list are (in no particular order): Patrick Rothfuss, Kevin Hearne, Jim Butcher, Ilona Andrews, Scott Lynch, R.A. Salvatore, Terry Pratchett, Brent Weeks, and Peter V. Brett.

BFF: Have you been sneaking peeks at my shelves again?! An excellent list for sure!

5. What is most likely to draw you in to a book?
I love complex characters and interesting plots. I know, doesn’t everybody? But I’ve put down books that were fascinating but I didn’t like any of the characters (sorry GRRM), or where the world was amazing but nothing happened in it, or where the characters were so real but the plot was boring. A book has to have that magical combination where interesting things happen to interesting people. I’m also a sucker for unique magic systems. Take Allomancy, again from Mistborn. Certain people can “burn” metals and get powers from them. Seriously, how cool is that?

BFF: Pretty darn cool! But, then again, I’m a character-person too. 🙂

6. What do you wish authors would do more of?
Authors should always do what’s important to them. I love finding novels that were clearly not written to follow trends or to sell lots of books, but are beautiful and exciting and intriguing because the author was passionate about it. Those quirky little stories are almost always my favorites.

7. Tell us a little about your publishing journey.
I was never, ever going to self-publish. I was going to go New York traditional houses all the way, do or die. My stack of rejection letters piled up, for one novel after another, year after year after year. During this time I’d gotten connected with several other writers, but one in particular: Matt Larkin. I critiqued his first novel, and he hired me on as his editor. After a while he edited a draft of Soul of the Blade. Then he asked if I would consider letting his company, Incandescent Phoenix Books, publish it. I politely said no, I’m going through literary agents and big houses. We did this dance for a year or two before finally I sat down with my husband and asked why. Why insist on big publishing? I didn’t have a good answer, so the next morning I talked business with Matt and here I am. I still say it was one of best decisions I’ve ever made.

BFF: So great to hear your perspective on this. Sounds like you’ve landed right where you need to be!

8. What’s next on your plate?
I’m working on a novel I initially wrote several years ago called No Hill Without Treasure. It’s about a man who accidentally releases horrible creatures called Shahadán into the world, and in order to set things right he has to reassemble a shattered magic and learn to master his own, before it destroys him. It’s another epic fantasy, but in a completely new world. I’m a stand-alone writer, so (much to some peoples’ dismay) it won’t be a sequel to Soul of the Blade.

BFF: On to the fun questions…

Favorite dragon: Of all time? Paarthurnax from Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. From a book? Black Kalgalath from Dennis McKiernan’s Dragondoom. Fabulous book. Honorary mention to any dragon written by Terry Pratchett.

Favorite Shakespeare: Othello. Iago is one of the best villains ever written.

Favorite fantasy food: Lembas! Personally I’d love to have something that I could take one bite of and not have to worry about eating for the rest of the day. Talk about convenient! Plus it’s Elvish so you know it has to taste like honey or something.

BFF: How very practical of you! Thanks so much for joining us on the Author’s Couch, Brenda, and good luck in all your upcoming projects.

 

BrendaMore About Brenda

Brenda J. Pierson wrote her first book at the age of six, in order to convince her parents to buy her a pet bunny. (She drew a picture of walking the bunny with a leash. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.) Since then she’s cultivated a love of literature and all things fantasy. Now she lives her life surrounded by books–writing them, editing them, and shelving them at her public library. It’s fairly close to heaven. She lives in her hometown of Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and two cats.

More About SOUL OF THE BLADE

Nicole’s Review: THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS

Untitled-14Title: The Slow Regard of Silent Things

Author: Patrick Rothfuss

Publisher: DAW

Genre: Fantasy, companion piece to The Kingkiller Chronicles

Pages: 159

Synopsis: Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own.

Review:

I’m typically not a short story or novella girl, and I was lukewarm on NAME OF THE WIND (though I did like Auri), so when a friend recommended THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into.

Luckily, the story entranced me from the outset. The writing is downright gorgeous: lyrical and rhythmic and infused with life. Pat Rothfuss chooses each word with a pristine care that makes book nerds like me weep tears of joy for the perfection of such moments. (Seriously, this happened more than once)

Auri herself is wonderful! She is mysterious, ethereal and a little bit broken. She’s genuine, thoughtful, troublesome and troubling. You can’t help but feel for her, and as someone who—ahem—still occasionally names inanimate objects, I couldn’t help but relate to her on some deeper level as well. Her world is small, lonely and well-ordered (the girl is OCD to say the least)…and yet, in her eyes, it’s also vibrant, full of inert friends who need her care, and warm in its familiarity.

I’ve seen some mention of the book as insight into mental illness, and while I think there are elements of that, for me the story rose to a higher, more profound and touching level. It is the simplicity and goodness of wrapping a warm sweater about yourself on a cold winter’s day and plopping in front of a fire. SLOW REGARD is one of those rare books that leaves readers looking at the world with new eyes. There are passages that made me feel like a kid again, delighting with Auri in a new discovery or treasure, and passages that were so stunningly poignant my breath caught.

Many people say this book lacks a plot—and it does in the traditional sense, so be forewarned—but I thought it had a beautiful plot: Auri’s search for the perfect gift for Kvothe. Yes, it’s scaled to Auri’s narrow world and intensely personal for her (since she is essentially the only character). And she gets distracted from it. A lot. But the point in her meandering action is that there IS a point and a connectedness to even the smallest action.

Each motion has purpose and leads her toward what’s right and proper and good in her eyes. It takes immense skill on Rothfuss’s part to maintain any sort of drive or plot momentum in Auri’s voice, and he carries it off well.

This is a book I want to share with anyone and everyone who’s a writer, reader or language fan, because it’s such a remarkable example of the power of woven words. Perhaps the highest praise I can give it is this: I’ve never actually bought a stand-alone novella before. I will be buying this one.

Five stars.

5star

Find this book on Amazon.

Friday Fandom: Top 10 Ships (Space and Nautical) of All Time

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So, it occurs to me I must really like ships. My first series features a fleet of tall ships—I toured several and sailed in one as part of my research—and my most recent novel is a space opera… with ships of a different kind! There’s just something grand and cool about how a ship can take you away. (And judging by a certain beloved pirate, I’m guessing Ashley agrees!)

Of course, when I realized that, I couldn’t resist a countdown for this week’s Friday Fandom. Here are my favorite fictional sea and space vessels. What are yours?

10. The Boru Karn, Gabriel’s Ghost and Shades of Dark
Props to Linnea Sinclair for making me love a ship I’ve never seen on the big screen. She’s got great description not only of the ship, but of how it moves through space. And, like so many others on this list, it’s got a charismatic captain!

9. The Sky Vessel, Stardust Stardust
It’s a tall ship. It flies. It catches lightning. That’s the trifecta! Now, throw in its colorful Captain Shakespeare, and you can’t lose.

8. The USS Enterprise, Star Trek
Before people get all feisty, this ranking says more about me than the ship. I came to the series late and have mostly only seen the new ones, so I feel like I can’t *really* do the ship full justice. Though it is one awesome ship!

7. The Indefatigable, Horatio Hornblower
My mom loves this series, and I got hooked on the VHS’ before I got a DVD player set up in my apartment. It’s partly the inspiration for the name of my most recent spaceship.

6. Shield’s Helicarrier, The Avengers
Why has no one actually created this yet?! It makes the list for sheer awesomeness of concept.

5. Serenity, Firefly and Serenity
They made this ship come alive! It felt like a home to the characters, and I couldn’t get enough! She’s scrappy and beat up, but still kickin’. Just like Mal.

4. The Inferno (AKA One-eyed Willie’s ship), Goonies
The one that started it all for me. I adore this movie, can quote every line, and when the ship sails free at the end I want to pound my chest in joy just like Sloth.

3. The Millennium Falcon, Star Wars
C’mon, it made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. What’s not to love?

2. The Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean
You may have heard of her captain. His name is Sparrow. Plus, this is just a downright gorgeous ship.

1. Moya, Farscape
She’s a living ship. She gives birth to a baby warship. Game, set, match!

From Farscape.wikia

From Farscape.wikia

Death Sworn: Ashley’s Review

DeathSwornTitle: Death Sworn

Author: Leah Cypress

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Pages: 352

Synopsis: Ileni is losing her magic. And that means she’s losing everything: her position as the rising star of her people, her purpose in life, and even the young man she loves. Sent to the assassins’ cave hidden deep within the mountains, she expects no one will ever hear from her again. The last two sorcerers sent died within weeks of each other. Accidents? Or something more sinister? As Ileni navigates the dangers—both natural and human—of the caves, she’ll discover secrets that have been kept for decades. And she’ll find an ally in Sorin, the deadly young man who could be the assassins’ next leader. With Sorin determined to protect her, sparks—magical and romantic—will fly. But will even he understand the choice she must make in the end?

Review:

I have to say that I loved Death Sworn by Leah Cypress. IIeni and Sorin had me smiling throughout this whole book.

IIeni is a sorceress who is losing her magic and she doesn’t know why. She’s sent to the assassins’ cave to teach the assassins magic, but told by the Elders that she’s being sent there to figure out what happened to the last two sorcerers (they were both male). She’s really good at faking her power, because, while she’s losing magic, she still has skill. I really liked this about IIeni, and felt that this made her a stronger character.

IIeni is under the protection of an assassin named Sorin who, while listens to the Master’s orders, has a bit of rebellion in him–for instance, he’s explored most of the surrounding caves, has parties when assassins return home from missions (which means they succeeded and made their kill), and he falls in love with IIeni. But it’s not that typical love at first sight thing, and I felt like it was really realistic for the situation IIeni and Sorin were placed. Sorin isn’t one for flattery, either, and tells IIeni that his affection for her was bound to happen because she’s the only female in the caves.

The plot is focused on IIeni, Sorin, and the clues they unearth in an effort to figure out who murdered the other two sorcerers. I liked that, because IIeni was losing her magic, it wasn’t easy to figure out who the murderer was. Throughout the book, there’s this general idea that the Master never makes a mistake and everything happens for a reason, so you as the reader get to try and put the pieces together with IIeni and Sorin.

As far as cons to this novel, I felt like IIeni mentioned how Sorin could kill her way to much. I already knew this because Sorin is an assassin, and her internal dialogue at the beginning of the book. I didn’t need it to be repeated over and over again. Also, I couldn’t quite figure out how old Bazil. He seemed like a child at times, and at other times, an adult.

As far as the world-building is concerned, I felt like Cypress did well considering this novel was isolated to the caves. I’m hoping to get an greater idea of the Empire in DEATH MARKED (which I have started). 4 stars.

4star

AMAZON

Author’s Couch: Q&A with Leah Cypress!

I picked up DEATH SWORN by Leah Cypress as a recommendation from my librarian co-worker. She said, ‘You have to read this book! The main character is a total badass, and the relationship is awesome!’ Let me tell you, DEATH SWORN did not disappoint! I couldn’t put this book down. Cypress presented a character who really had to ‘fake it until she made it.’ Once I finished, I immediately picked up DEATH MARKED, and all I can really say is, I’m so sad there are only two books!

I reached out to Leah and asked for an interview–and guess what? She’s just as awesome as her books and agreed to answer my burning questions!

Q&A

DeathSworn HC CTell us what’s unique about DEATH SWORN?

Death Sworn is a murder mystery and fantasy combined, set entirely in an underground cavern that serves as a school of assassins. I can’t think of any parallels offhand. 😉

More seriously, though: I wanted to write a book about assassins that weren’t the usual fantasy assassins-with-hearts-of-gold characters. Not that I don’t love those books — I do! — but for this book, I drew inspiration more heavily from the actual, historical sect of the assassins that existed in the Middle East in medieval times, and what we know about how they functioned and what motivated them.

Sorin and IIeni don’t have a relationships typical of the YA genre in that they react to each other in a very realistic and rational manner. At times, this was frustrating and heartbreaking, but I also loved it. Can you give us insight into your view of Sorin and IIeni’s relationship? 

I’m glad to hear you say that, because my intent was to make it realistic! (does author happy dance)

In some ways, I think their relationship is somewhat unhealthy — Ileni enters it partly out of desperation and depression, in addition to attraction and admiration; and while Sorin grows immensely from knowing Ileni, she is also a threat to everything he has ever wanted. Combine that with their wildly incompatible worldviews, and their romance will always be a struggle. I can’t say much more without giving away aspects of Death Marked, though!

While reading DEATH SWORN, I thought about the difficulty of world building while staying in DeathMarked HC csuch an excluded location. Did you find this difficult as well? 

Writing a book set in a constricted location is a challenge, but it happens to be a challenge that I love. Plus, I have always been fascinated by caves, so the ability to research and describe the underground caverns was a large part of the fun of writing this book. I think I’ve watched every cave documentary in existence — and I also got to dig up my old travel notebooks for the descriptions I had written of caves I’ve explored.

Was DEATH SWORN originally planned as a duology? 

Believe it or not, I originally planned it as a stand-alone — I thought readers would be happy to imagine the rest of the story on their own! But every single person who read it told me, in no uncertain terms, that they demanded a sequel. The last of those people was my editor, and so a sequel was born.

Last question: If Sorin and IIeni lived in this world and had to have day jobs, what would they be? 

Ha, fun question! I suspect Sorin would be in the military — some sort of elite special forces unit, probably. And Ileni would put her ambition to use in a demanding field in which she could rise to the top *and* feel like she was doing something important in the world. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if she went into politics. Or, if she had any talent for it, she might do medicine or medical research.

Find the Books

DEATH SWORN on AMAZON

DEATH MARKED on AMAZON

 

About the Author

  Leah Cypess author photo 1

I wrote my first story in first grade. The narrator was an ice-cream cone in the process of being eaten. In fourth grade, I wrote my first book, about a girl who gets shipwrecked on a desert island with her faithful and heroic dog (a rip-off of both The Black Stallion and all the Lassie movies, very impressive).

After selling my first story (Temple of Stone) while in high school, I gave in to my mother’s importuning to be practical and majored in biology at  Brooklyn College. I then went to Columbia Law School and practiced law for almost two years at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a large law firm in New York City. I kept writing and submitting in my spare time, and finally, a mere 15 years after my first short story acceptance, I sold my first novel to Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins).

I live in Silver Spring, Maryland (right outside of Washington, D.C.) with my husband and three children.

Follow Leah on FACEBOOK or TWITTER!

 

Nicole’s Review: MAGONIA

MagoniaTitle: MAGONIA

Author: Maria Dahvana Headley

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 320

Synopsis: Aza Ray Boyle is drowning in thin air. Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—but as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war between Magonia and Earth is coming. In Aza’s hands lies fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

Review:

I was a little surprised by how much I liked this book. A race of birds? Songbirds that fly in and out of people’s lungs? Sky vessels and squallwhales? There’s plenty of quirkiness to go around, and while it might catch some readers off guard, I found it utterly charming and entrancing!

The worldbuilding was fresh and delightful. I mean, sky vessels?! Maybe it’s a holdover from Disney’s Peter Pan or my love for Goonies and, more recently, Stardust, but I’ve always been captivated by the idea of tall ships sailing the skies. And squallwhales?! I love the idea of giant cloud-wreathed leviathans breathing our weather into being with their songs. MAGONIA fueled my imagination in that rare way that calls to mind childhood wonder and daydreaming just for the joy of it.

Speaking of songs, music lovers will enjoy how Dahvana Headley positions the magic of her music in MAGONIA. It literally has the power to create and destroy. Though this isn’t a new concept in fantasy, her approach feels unique and strangely subtle, given its importance in the book’s climax.

Yet, as much as I loved the worldbuilding, my favorite aspect of MAGONIA was its characters—especially Aza and Jason. They are quirkily perfect for each other and, unlike the insta-love of many YA books these days, readers get to see their deep friendship and love grow throughout the book without being hit over the head with it. Their commitment to each other feels real and extremely strong.

That’s thanks in large part to the fact that they’re both individually strong characters and hilariously funny at times in a dead-pan, inside-joke way that made their voices distinctive and fun to read. They’re each smart, sarcastic and clever. I laughed out loud more than once!
One caveat though: You’ll know by the end of the first chapter if Aza’s voice works for you or not. She can come close to being overpowering or too stream of consciousness-y. I enjoyed it, but it won’t work for everyone.

The first third of the book is almost entirely about battling Aza’s illness on Earth and has an almost “Bridge to Terabithia” feel to it, which I found endearing. The second third introduces readers more deeply to Magonia, the world in the sky, and its inhabitants, and the third wraps up a nice break-in / sky-singing battle climax.

Each of these sections carried a slightly different tone and pacing, and it’s Aza’s and Jason’s voices that anchor the reader and keep drawing us in. The plot does veer a little thin about half-way through the book, or at least I kept expecting more from it, given various hints along the way. The climax itself is very satisfactory, though without the personal stakes of Aza and Jason, I think the external stakes (stealing plants – albeit really rare and cool plants!) would have fallen short for me.

For all the time Aza spends in Magonia, I wish we could know a few of the characters better—especially Dai, Aza’s crewmate and singing partner with a tragic background and mysterious allegiances, and Zal and Ley, captains who played a big role in Aza’s time on Earth and who still have major scores to settle. But, part of my reason for wanting more is that Dahvana Headley paints beautiful descriptions and mysteries that make you want to dive in and learn ALL the reasons.

I did really love Caru, the heartbird. He is everything majestic, free and loyal that you could possibly imagine about a bird of prey. I also had a soft spot for the batsail, who is at once noble and sad. These are great examples of how MAGONIA moves beyond a typical YA to touch deeper heartstrings, deeper lessons of life. I love, love, love books that do this well!

Another element that made me tear up was Dahvana Headley’s lovely and loving portrayal of family. The simple yet ever-strong ties between Aza and her Earth-bound family are frankly breathtaking in several places, and Jason’s family too is close-knit and wonderful.

So, MAGONIA, a bit of quirk, a dash of wonder, and a whole lot of fun!

Four stars.

4star

Find this book on Amazon.