Signal Boost: Signy Cullen

Hello everyone, Dani here.

So today’s Signal Boost is a bit different, mostly because it is kind of self-promotion…or rather it’s promotion of my Mousai Books partner-in-crime, Signy Cullen.

See, I’m super proud of her because her third book (second under her pen name) was released July 22nd, and I think more people should check it out. The book is called Beautiful Liar and it is the first in a series of action/thriller/spy/crime novels.

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Summary

When a prisoner transport bus from the Federal Correctional Institute at Pekin crashes, four dangerous fugitives are on the run. Deputy U.S. Marshal Tim Noonon and his squad are called in to begin the search for the fugitives, but somebody unexpected shows up as well. Six agents from the CIA arrive on scene to take over the search for two of the fugitives.

Deputy Noonan butts heads with the CIA Agent in charge, Special Agent Jane Donner, as the case progresses. Constantly stepping on toes, Agent Donner does what she needs to in order to get the job done. Making friends is not her job, yet she and the other Agents can’t help but come to like the Marshals. What she doesn’t expect is fugitive Rambo Tate.

Rambo Tate, a drug dealer and murderer out of Boston, knows just who Agent Donner really is. If he is allowed to return to Boston, he may just blow Agent Donner’s cover, putting not only her life, but the life of those around her in danger.

It’s a race against the clock as the Marshals and CIA must work together to find the missing criminals. Can the Marshals overcome their distrust of the CIA or will the fugitives disappear?

I had the privilege of reading the first third or so of the book during the writing and editing process and it was really interesting even back in those early days. Now if you’ve followed my blog enough, you’ve probably realized that I typically stay in my little corner of the world with all the fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal books I read. Even saying that, I can say that I enjoy reading other genres every once-in-a-while.

I’d say that this book is just about perfect for fans of shows like Prison Break/Breakout Kings, Quantico, Covert Affairs, etc.

It has mystery, action, intrigue, secrets and plenty of characters perfectly willing to lie…like main gal Jane Donner.

I am so very much looking forward to seeing how this series progresses because it seems like it should be pretty great.

At this point I should probably also mention Signy’s first book, Farther Side of Away. It tells the tale of Adam and Eve, but it isn’t exactly the tale that most of us know. Adam is a werewolf and Eve is a vampire, and likewise their children are divided between being vampires and werewolves, which gives a reason for the familial issues within the pages of the book. The story covers from the beginning all the way to present day and it was a supremely interesting idea and I did enjoy the story, even if part of me wished that it had been more of a duology or a trilogy so some of the tales and adventures could have been expanded upon. Two thousand years is a lot of ground to cover in a few hundred pages.

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Both of these books can be picked up online in paperback or e-book (though the e-book of Beautiful Liar is still being formatted), or if you are in the area of Columbus, Ohio, this weekend and are attending Wizard World Comic Con, stop by and see us at Artists Alley booth B26. It’ll be a lot of fun.

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Wizard World Ohio Comic-Con

Hey all, Dani here.

This weekend will mark another milestone in my journey as a published author…and that is having my own table at a convention. Now, I won’t be doing this alone. My best friend/critique partner/fellow author Signy Cullen is also joining me, and she has just released her latest book, Beautiful Liar, which follows a U.S. Marshal and a CIA agent as they track down escaped fugitives. I admit that I’ve only read the first 5 chapters of the book so far, but it seems pretty interesting so far.

Also available at the convention will be Signy’s first book, Farther Side of Away, which is an interesting twist on the tale of Adam and Eve, wherein Adam is a werewolf and Eve is a vampire.

I will have copies of my first book, Project Death: Resurrection available, and will be taking pre-orders for the second book in the series, Project Death: Revelation. This is a paranormal series focusing on a war between angelic beings known as Resurrectors who seek to preserve Life, and Death and his Angel of Death, who seek to maintain the Balance between Life and Death.

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Anyway, I have been attending Wizard World conventions since 2014, and have greatly enjoyed them. Last year’s Wizard World Ohio, I had the great privilege to work at the Colorworld Books table, which gave me the chance to see what it was like to work at a convention.

Now it’s time to take the big step and sell my own books.

So…if you will be in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend, July 29-31, feel free to stop by the Mousai Books table and say hello to Signy and myself. We’ll have copies of our books to sell, and would be happy to talk about fandoms, writing, editing, and publishing with anybody.

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The hours for the convention are: Friday 3pm-8pm, Saturday 10am-7pm, and Sunday 10am-4pm. We are located in Artists Alley, booth B26, and would love to see you there.

Review: Colorworld by Rachel E Kelly

Hey all, Dani here.

So I feel like I need to review this book…again. Why? A) Because it is the start to one of my favorite book series and B) the review I had up online was on my old blog which was deleted.

I’ve talked about Colorworld Books before, but I decided that for the next few weeks I would go back and review the series once again in the hopes that more people would be intrigued by the story and go pick up a copy.

This series is to have seven books in total; four have been published so far and book five is supposed to be out sometime in 2016, and boy am I looking forward to the release of Dreamworld. But today is not about book five in this awesome series. No, it is about the one that started it all.

Welcome to Colorworld.

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Summary

Wen knows what love looks like. Since her mom died over a year ago, she’s seen it every day on her orphaned younger brother’s face. Wen’s made good on her promise to her mom that she’d take care of Ezra, even quitting her carefree party-girl ways to become a hard-working college student so she can provide for him.

Wen knows what love feels like, too. Because when she touches people, she feels what they do. “Uniquely perceptive” is what her mom called it, and Wen’s not going to argue; she doesn’t know any different.

But an energy therapy study changes not only what Wen knows about her unusual gift; it also changes her. Now, instead of feeling emotions, her touch brings death to others. No one is safe around her, especially Ezra.

Wen turns to energy healers for help. And that’s where she meets him: Mr. Tenacious and Audacious, Gabe Dumas. He knows about love, too; he speaks it in ways Wen has never experienced. And he’s never even touched her.

With her heart unravelling, Wen discovers a world only she can see. It may offer hope for her condition… or it may be better left hidden. *Intended for 16 and up

My Thoughts

This is the book series I recommend to just about everyone I meet, provided I can tell that they are a reader, or if they just ask for recommendations. I first learned of this series at Wizard World Ohio Comic Con in 2014, when the first two books were out and the third was scheduled for release at the end of the year.

Now, I’ll say that it’s pretty easy for authors to sell books to me at signings or conventions, because I love to read. But what first caught my attention for this series, was that classic Colorworld bubble cover. It’s just so incredibly eye-catching and it made me walk over to the table. (And now I also have a Colorworld bubble poster and bookmark. It is just such an awesome image. In fact all of the cover photos are photos of soap bubbles, which is just fantastic and stunning).

When I then learned that the book was about this girl who has empathic abilities who went in for an energy therapy study to earn some extra cash and walked out with lethal touch, I knew I had to at least try it. So I bought the first three books in a bundle package, getting the first two that day with the third to be mailed to me.

I read Colorworld really quickly. The characters were interesting and the story was compelling. Yes, I will admit that I caught a few spelling and grammar issues, things like typing heroine instead of heroin, but that didn’t really distract me from the story too much.

Also, I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of insta-love because it seems a tad unrealistic. Insta-attraction I can understand. However, I think that in the case of this book I’m okay with the insta-love because Wendy is an empath and feels the emotions of those around her. So when Gabe is standing there projecting his feelings about and towards her, it’s only natural that Wendy almost instantly reciprocates.

And Gabe is an attractive and intelligent young man.

My favorite part of this series, though he is slightly a minor character in this first book, is Wendy’s brother, Ezra. He is such a wonderful fanboy and I love his excitement of things. The fact that he so easily gets behind the fact that his sister is now basically a superhero is just so fun to watch.

Most of the story has a sort of slow pace, as Wendy tries to figure out how to live without being able to have skin-to-skin contact with anyone. In the last third or so of the book the pace really picks up as Wendy really starts putting together the pieces and everything becomes more complicated.

Colorworld absolutely sets up the premise and idea for what will happen in the rest of the series, and it’s fun to think of where her journey continues in the next three books already released, and then to imagine just what awesome twists, turns, and revelations will happen in the remaining three books.

Oh, did I also mention that an Illustrated version has been released as well? No, well, I’ll do that now. It still contains the same text from the original version, but spaced throughout the book there are illustrated pages that show important scenes. Each book has a different artist working on it, so each book has a different art style. So far the first three books have been released in Illustrated Editions and the fourth book should be coming very soon. I’m very much looking to a re-read of Shadoworld when I get my Illustrated Edition.

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Team Colorworld is also working on bringing Colorworld to life as a comic series, so that should be really awesome as well.

Basically if you were a fan of the TV show Heroes (primarily the first season or two), and if you like complex characters with a multitude of layers, and the idea of superpowers that have a fairly strong basis in science and theory, then I very much recommend that you pick up a copy of Colorworld today.

Overall I ended up giving Colorworld a 4.5 star rating.

Where to Buy

You can pick this book up at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, but I highly highly recommend that you go straight to the source, and get a signed copy from the Colorworld store. You can also check out some amazing art prints, metal prints, bookmarks, and more.

Stop back next week when I post my review of the second book in the series, Teleworld.

Signal Boost: LARPs the Series

Hey all, Dani here.

Welcome back to my weekly segment where I share some awesome and typically nerdy thing that I think more people should know about. It could be a book, movie, TV series, author, artist, tabletop game, Web series…basically anything. I love sharing some of these wonderful people and projects with all of you, and I was inspired to do this after watching several episodes of Geek and Sundry’s Web show: Signal Boost. Also, mini-Boost here, America Young just finished her four episode run on the show and she was fabulous. I’ve enjoyed the other hosts, but I think she was my favorite. Go check out the show here.

Okay, now on to the main Boost for the day, and that is a Web show that I actually discovered because Geek and Sundry picked it up. They re-aired the first season, and then a successful Indiegogo campaign helped fund the second season which was absolutely phenomenal. The show is LARPs: the Series…and I desperately am hoping they’ll announce a third season.

Several years ago I discovered a Web series called The Guild and it focused on a guild for a video game called “The Game” but was rather similar to games such as World of Warcraft. Anyway, after six seasons The Guild reached its conclusion and I was left with repeats. Where else would I get the in-and-out-of-game relationships, camaraderie, friendships, feuds, and drama.

Then LARPs: the Series came into my life. It follows a small group of friends who participate in a live action roleplaying game. The series follows them both in and out of game, and is clever, fun, and I think it is a wonderful representation of this section of geek culture.

The first season has us following Will, Arthur, Brittany, and game master Evan, a LARP group in the middle of a story when they discuss adding a new character to the game. In comes Shane, who plays a paladin with an obsession with fire, and it changes things. In the first season we watch as secrets are kept, romance blooms in and out of game, and their lives begin to change.

It’s really easy to catch up on the first season as most of the episodes are only 5 or 6 minutes long.

You can find the episodes here.

The second season brings in a host of new characters, but the main new character is Kat, a friend of Shane’s who is brand new to LARPing, and it makes everything in the group more wonderful and complex. Plus, some of the players are dealing with the ramifications of the season one finale, which I won’t spoil for you, though I highly recommend you go catch up now.

What is incredibly wonderful about the second season is that the successful Indiegogo campaign meant longer episodes, generally 12 minutes or so, though the second season finale was almost a half-hour in length…and man, what an ending! Again, I don’t want to spoil things, but I’m really really curious about what could happen next with this group of friends because season two ended with an incredibly intense and action packed game session.

I am proud to have been a backer for the season two Indiegogo, and it came complete with an awesome calendar, some LARPs buttons, and of course, a DVD set of both seasons.

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So, if you are or were a Guildie, or if you are just a fan of great shows that highlight some wonderful parts of being in the nerd community, I highly highly recommend that you check out this series. It is well worth the time.

And hopefully soon we’ll see some sort of announcement about season three.

Booktube-a-thon 2016

Hey all, Dani here.

Originally I wasn’t even going to make a post about this, because I was unsure that I would be able to participate. But the more I saw people updating their statuses and posting videos about their progress, the more I wanted to just try it. So, here I go. Okay, so yes, I’m still actually working on creating my first videos for my vlog, but the main point is to read books, and I can certainly do that.

This year Booktube-a-thon is July 18th-24th and there are seven reading challenges to attempt this week. There are also Bookstagram photo challenges and Booktube video challenges, so there’s something for everyone.

The reading challenges are:

  1. Read a book with yellow on the cover
  2. Read a book only after sunset
  3. Read a book you discovered through Booktube
  4. Read a book by one of your favorite authors
  5. Read a book that is older than you
  6. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation
  7. Read seven books

I finally decided to dive into this reading challenge yesterday, July 20th, so some might think that would put me a bit behind, but I chose my books wisely, and actually only one of them is a reread so that’s pretty awesome.

As an update, on July 20th I completed two of the challenges: A book by one of your favorite authors, and a book that is older than you.

Another reason I started the challenge yesterday was because my copy of The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman arrived. I had been wanting to read the book for a while but was a little leery of the price. But it was on sale through B&N so I snagged a copy for only $10. It’s also only 66 pages long and has quite a few stunning illustrations so that made it a rather quick read. This book is my selection for “book by one of your favorite authors.” I’ll be honest and say that Neil Gaiman is also a fairly new author for me. I had been wanting to read something of his for quite some time and kept putting it off. This year I finally picked up the first couple volumes of Sandman and then quickly purchased the next few volumes; I’ve read five of them now and they are absolutely amazing, so of course Neil Gaiman has become a favorite author, and I’m actually really looking forward to trying out some of his novels. I’m actually waiting for American Gods to arrive.

The second book I read yesterday fulfills the requirement of “a book that is older than you.” I started and finished The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Again, this is actually a fairly short read, only 76 pages for the Dover Thrift Edition. I think I bought this for my birthday in 2015 and since then it has just sat on the shelf. Booktube-a-thon seemed the perfect time to cross it off the TBR. Plus, I do try to read a couple classics minimum each year.

So, maybe you’re wondering what other books I have on my Booktube-a-thon TBR. Well, I’ll share my list with you now.

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Heroine Complex has yellow on the cover, I discovered both The Marked Girl and The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes from Booktube (Thanks Christine, Kat, Jesse, and Regan), and my book to movie adaptation will be my re-read and re-watch of The Great GatsbyA Thousand Pieces of You just sounds really good and of course I needed to be certain that I had seven books on my list. I’m not sure which book will actually be my after sunset read though.

Now, I feel like I also need to say that reading a book after sunset almost feels like cheating to me. I work 3rd shift, which means I work all night long, and currently I am in a position where I can actually read while I’m at work.

My July reading wrap-up post will be posted on July 28th, so I’ll include my Booktube-a-thon wrap-up in that post.

Are any of you participating in this year’s Booktube-a-thon? If so, how are you doing with your reading progress and challenges?

Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Hey all, Dani here.

The book I’m reviewing today has a cover that certainly caught my attention. It’s so pretty…and the cover for the sequel is even more stunning. I’m just really glad that the story between the covers basically lives up to the shiny awesomeness that made me grab the book off the shelf.

I’m of course talking about Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson…and seriously, just look at the cover.

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Yes, I had to put some of these flowers in the picture too. I bought a bunch of them at Hobby Lobby for Bookstagram photos and I don’t use them as often as I probably should. Anyway, let’s just talk about this cover and how it relates to the book.

Walk on Earth a Stranger is a historical fiction story with a hint of magic that is set in the time of the Gold Rush. The main character has a unique ability to sense where gold is, from little powdered shavings to nuggets or gold bars. Which is handy during a Gold Rush unless other people find out and want to use you to get rich. But seriously, the cover goes so well with the Gold Rush story. Look at all the warm golden hues and the shiny lettering of the title. The picture doesn’t quite do the cover justice, but it’s still just so lovely.

Summary

Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

My Thoughts

I’m gonna go 4.5 stars on this one. This is a historical fantasy fiction, though it is light on the fantasy, which actually worked for me. Yes, I really do love nice epic or high fantasy tales, but every now and again I like to look into different takes on fantastical elements. More of the story  in Walk on Earth a Stranger is spent on the actual journey from Georgia to California, and especially on Leah “Lee” Westfall pretending to be a boy, which is a trope used somewhat regularly, but I still find the concept to be a fun one.

And can I just say that seriously, I loved the fact that this story had people going to the bathroom, and for main character Lee there was also her development into womanhood, and trying to continue pretending to be a boy when her monthly cycle hit. Honestly, it was nice to read a book that didn’t avoid the fact that people have to go to the bathroom and deal with other bodily functions. I really appreciated that.

I enjoyed reading about the journey and was surprised by how attached I became to some characters. A great deal of this book was spent on traveling and the hazards of the trail West. In some ways the journey reminded me of my childhood playing Oregon Trail in school. So to some people I’m sure that the read will feel a little slow, and possibly uneventful but I had a nice nostalgic memory attached to this major plot element. There are a few action type scenes, and based on where the story went, I’m sure that the next book will probably have some more intrigue and action.

It wasn’t a blow me away amazing read but it was still really good. It honestly didn’t take me that long to finish it, because I was so intrigued by the basic journey West story. So I’m really glad this cover buy ended up being worth the read. I look forward to reading the next one this fall.

Where to Buy

You can pick up a copy yourself at basically any book seller. If your local store doesn’t have it, then see if they’ll order it in. Or swing by Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-million, or Book Depository. Book two, Like a River Glorious, will be released September 27th, 2016. And seriously, look at the cover for this one…

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*drool* It’s just so incredibly lovely.

Signal Boost: Rebecca Frank Design and Art

Hey all, Dani here.

Welcome back to my weekly installment of Signal Boost, my mini-shout-out to some person or thing that I think more people should know about. As always, I will say that my inspiration for this segment came from watching episodes of the show Signal Boost on Geek & Sundry. I’ll also add in a mini-Boost right now and say that if you aren’t watching Signal Boost, you should go check it out now because the current host, America Young, is awesome and cute and hilarious.

Anyway, today’s choice for my Signal Boost is actually book related. If you’re a self-published/indie author then you really know how important it is to have a great cover. And there are so many options online for cover designers and cover artists, so it could be a little daunting if you don’t know what you want.

I first learned of Rebecca Frank when Facebook suggested that I might like author Adam J Wright’s page. That led me to really liking his cover art for his books, which then led me to find Rebecca Frank’s Web site.

She has premade covers and can also be hired for specific covers. Depending on if you want e-book or e-book and print, and your budget, you have the choice of several options, and I’ll say that I find the prices to be fairly reasonable. I’ve done a lot of searching for indie cover artists and some of them charge a pretty penny for work.

There are four different “packages” you can choose from when it comes to cover design and creation.

First is The Premade Ebook. This is a starting cost of $65 and includes the customization of author name and title after purchase. Premade covers are sold only once and are not based on a template. Some simple edits can be made for free while an extra fee will be tacked on for complex edits. And this cost only includes an Ebook cover. There is an extra cost if you want the spine and back cover for a paperback book.

You can shop her premade cover gallery here.

Next is The Basic Ebook. This package has a starting cost of $149 and you choose one stock photo which Rebecca Frank then uses to create a book cover. The cost of the stock photo is included in the price, and she uses Shutterstock, so you can look for photos there before contacting Rebecca Frank if you’d like. This package has a turnaround time of about a week and the cost includes up to two revisions. Again, this is just the price for Ebook cover and an extra fee will be charged if you want the print design.

With a starting cost of $299, the third package is The Premium Ebook. This option allows you to choose multiple stock photos from Shutterstock which will then be edited and manipulated together to create a wholly unique cover just for you. The package promises initial concepts within two days of cover start date and there is no limit to revisions. Again, this cost is still just for Ebook and there is an extra fee to create the print design as well.

Finally, there is The Print Package. This option starts at $399 and includes everything from The Premium Ebook package plus the wrap around spine and back cover for a print book. You will receive a PDF file for CreateSpace, or other similar print on demand companies.

If you want to look at Rebecca Frank’s portfolio filled with other covers she has created, you can find that here.

I simply think that Rebecca Frank’s covers are beautiful, and then while reading about her, I discover that she is based in Ohio, which is honestly even cooler for me because I too am an Ohioan, so now I feel like I’m supporting a neighbor…or something.

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For my Project Death series, I have made my own covers, utilizing photos I’ve taken at cemeteries around Ohio. But for a project like my Courts and Guilds novels, I want an excellent cover that will draw in readers, especially since a science fantasy project would be a great deal more difficult for me to figure out a cover for. My plan is to hire Rebecca Frank for all four books in the series.

Now, since a lot of time and effort go into the creation of each cover, Rebecca Frank can sometimes be a bit busy with work. She keeps up to date on her Web site about her availability and such, which I appreciate. And I realize that by Signal Boosting her, I might even run into a situation where she gets even busier, but I think her work is outstanding and she deserves to have more people find her and hire her.

Right now I think I own 12 books with covers designed by Rebecca Frank, and they all look so lovely. Thankfully the stories bound within the covers have been just as great as the covers.

Well, I think that’s all from me this week. I’ll see you guys next week with more book reviews, writing talk, and another Signal Boost. Have a great weekend!

Top Ten Books Read in 2016 (so far)

Hey all, Dani here.

First, I would like to apologize for not having a post up Monday or Tuesday. After seven months working on second shift, I have been moved back to third shift starting this week, and it hasn’t been the easiest of transitions for me.

So to make up for that, yesterday I shared a post about writing diversified characters, and today I have a fun little post where I talk about some of the amazing books I’ve read so far this year.

My friend Rachael (Rachaelrexds on Instagram) had her own post on this topic a few days ago, and I thought, well, maybe I should see if I can narrow down the books I’ve read into some semblance of a favorites list. And, well, here we are.

Now, a disclaimer…I did not include re-reads in this list (sorry Harry Potter and Percy Jackson), and I also did not include books that have yet to be released (sorry History is All You Left Me). Also, this list is in absolutely no particular order–well, okay, they might be in chronological order of when I read them, but they certainly aren’t in any sort of favoritism order.

Here we go…

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Truthwitch (Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

This was one of the first books I read this year and I absolutely loved it. The witcheries are really cool, and there was enough world-building to give me a basic idea of the world. The interactions between the characters were varied and complex, and I cannot say enough about the amazing friendship between Safi and Iseult.

The Wrath and the Dawn/The Rose and The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

This duology was stunning. I love retellings, and reading this version of 1001 Arabian Nights was so incredibly lovely. Shazi is such a strong female character. I love that she is so determined and outspoken. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you check these out/pick them up/read them.

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

I heard so many people talking about this and gave it a try based on the recommendation by a really good friend of mine. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. Yes, the concept of one group of people who are underlings/in servitude/etc and one group who are the ruling class/wealthy/superior has been done so many times, but hey, this takes place on Mars, and I found the whole thing quite intriguing. I still need to read the rest of the trilogy, but Red Rising at least is definitely worth a read.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo

A great start to a duology, but oh how I wish it were at least a trilogy. I love the characters, the expansion to the world, and the heist was great. I made myself read the Grisha trilogy before jumping into this one, and yes there are a couple important events from the trilogy that are mentioned in this series, and having the knowledge of those books does help you understand the world already, but I don’t think it’s necessary to read the Grisha trilogy first. And I’ve heard a lot of people say they prefer Six of Crows. I agree with those people. This was an action-packed adventure and I wish it were September already because I need to have Crooked Kingdom in my hands already.

Captive Prince (Captive Prince #1) by C.S. Pacat

Okay, technically I would like to include the whole trilogy right here, because I devoured all three of them in only a few days. I am so grateful that I didn’t find these books until after the final one was released; otherwise I would not have enjoyed the wait between books. I can’t say that I’ve read a lot of slave-fic romances, but the story was so vivid, mostly because the characters had such depth to them. I wanted to learn more about them and see how their relationship dynamics changed as the story progressed and I hoped for a happy ending. I won’t spoil anything, but I will suggest that you go out and pick up these wonderful books. Oh, I guess I should also mention that they feature a m/m romance, if you didn’t already know that.

Borderline (Arcadia Project #1) by Mishell Baker

I have mentioned this book a few times, both here and on my Bookstagram account. I absolutely love the diversity of the characters and the richness of the world, which is really just our world with the inclusion of the creatures from myth and fairy tales. Millie is such a realistic protagonist and has her own issues to overcome and struggles to face. Complicated friendships, working relationships, and hints of romance make this the kind of story that I think anyone could enjoy.

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J Maas

This book was outstanding, and completely blew ACOTAR out of the water. I won’t say much more about this because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I will say these things: The Night Court was awesome, Rhysand was fantastic, and man, oh man, with the way it ended, I am desperate for book three. Also, did you hear that Sarah J Maas is now contracted for 6 more books in the series (though one of them is actually a coloring book. Still, we might have 5 more books–4 if one turns out to be a guide to the world/characters/etc).

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Honestly I don’t think I could make a list like this without including some mention of my obsession for Hamilton. The behind-the-scenes look into the show and the creation of the music, lyrics, casting, portrayals, etc just enriched the whole concept for me. I cannot wait to finally see it live. This is the perfect gift for anyone in your life who finds themselves listening to the soundtrack Non-Stop and constantly talking about or referencing Hamilton in general conversation. I mean, come on, this musical pushed me in the direction of needing to buy a 700+ page biography about Alexander Hamilton.

Reliquary (Reliquary #1) by Sarah Fine

I was lucky enough to receive an e-galley of this book and I adored it. Thankfully it has been released so I can include it on this list…and book two is coming soon. It is near the top of my TBR since I was approved for another e-galley. Asa Ward is my new book boyfriend. I love the magic system in this world and the chemistry between Mattie and Asa is…whoa. This is definitely my favorite Sarah Fine book to date.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Okay, yes, so there is a contemporary on my list, but I found this to be a delightful read and Clark would also make an excellent book boyfriend. I guess my only issue is that he is several years younger than me. The aforementioned Asa Ward is just right. Anyway, this was a quick easy read, perfect for summertime, and all the little nerdy moments as well as the great friendship dynamics make this a book I have to recommend.


Well, there you have it…my top ten reads (so far) in 2016. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the easiest of tasks. At the current moment my Goodreads proudly proclaims that I have read 89 books already this year.

What are a few of your favorite reads so far this year? I’d love to hear from you.

Writing Diversified Characters

Hey all, Dani here.

A month ago I read an article by A.J. Hartley on the TOR/Forge blog about writing POC characters when you are not a person of color, and I bookmarked it as something to reference for a blog post. Now, since we’re in the middle of Camp NaNoWriMo, I figure that this is the perfect time to talk about characters.

For me, characters are what truly drive the story. Sure, yes, there are successful plot-driven tales out there, but the reason why I dive into a book and read through to the end is for the characters. I love following their journey and their adventures and seeing how they evolve and grow through the novel or the series.

But I can also admit that when it comes to my own stories, I am color-blind most of the time. It’s not that I don’t care about diversity. I like having a variety of characters from all sorts of places and cultures and backgrounds. It’s more that I tend to view the characters through their personalities and mostly ignore their physical appearance.

This is something I know I need to be more conscious of in future, and I’m trying to include those details, when the story warrants it.

I just don’t want to end up writing characters that are seen as racial stereotypes, which can happen when in this situation. And like A.J. Hartley comments in the article, I also don’t want to fall on the other side of the spectrum and just write the characters as if race doesn’t matter and then just give the characters “ethnic names” or casually mention skin color a couple times and think that is good enough.

Unfortunately I’m not from a very racially diverse area. I think when I was in high school the entire school district had maybe two people who classified themselves as African-American, and there might have been about 10 students who were of Hispanic descent. And in college I took an Anthropology course where there were a few African-American classmates and all I can remember from that class is a class discussion over items we thought should go in a theoretical white history museum and a black history museum. These aforementioned classmates listed off all these wonderful creations and cultural movements for the black history museum and then said that the white history museum should have whips, chains, etc.

Yes, I understand that these kinds of people exist in the world, and I also get that history is fraught with injustices and inequality and just nastiness. I just think there are better ways to handle the conversation today. Unfortunately as a society everyone seems so focused on spreading a negatively charged message, complete with anger, hatred, fear, and violence, and it ends up doing more harm than good.

Wow, okay, so now I’m just spiraling into a rambling tangent. Moving on.

I want to do justice to the characters and who they are inside. And considering some of the characters who have narrated my stories so far, skin color is not a factor they focus on. Tamesis, born a Resurrector before becoming the next Angel of Death, cares more about a person’s ability to do their job/duty. Thanos, who is Death, focuses on deeds and how people treat each other. Maybe for the Project Death series, Jules will have a different view, since she was a normal human until after her death.

And maybe this is also something I could potentially focus on with my Courts and Guilds novels as well. This series might even be fun to incorporate a diverse cast, since it is a science fantasy world, and there are so many possibilities

I think A.J. Hartley is correct in his article, when he says that all we can try to do is our best, and then be prepared for there to be complaints or backlash about how certain characters are portrayed.

So, if I have a more diverse cast of characters in the Courts and Guilds novels, then I also hope that I’m able to find a bit more diversity in my beta readers, just so I can get a better idea at how I am doing with character portrayal. I certainly don’t want to be insensitive towards people who already have to deal with so much in the real world.

If you’re a writer, how do you handle writing characters of different races, cultures, backgrounds from you?

If you’re a reader, are there any books you might recommend as being well-written while handling a diverse cast of characters?

Some quick recommendations I’ll mention: Borderline by Mishell Baker (POC as well as handling disability and mental health issues), The Great Library series–Ink and Bone, and Paper and Fire–by Rachel Caine (POC and diverse cultures), and More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (POC and LGBTQIA).

Signal Boost: Nerd Overload

Hey all, Dani here.

Welcome back to Signal Boost, my weekly blog post where I share something that I like and think more people should check out. For more geeky signal boosts, check out the show that inspired this segment, Signal Boost on Geek & Sundry.

Today I am sharing a nerdy podcast that I enjoy listening to so I can keep up on news in the world of comic books, video games, and geeky movies and television shows. Now, let me first tell you that of the four hosts of this podcast, I went to high school with one of the hosts, and I currently work at the same company as another one of the hosts. That’s actually how I first learned about it; my co-worker mentioned it to me.

What podcast am I talking about, then? Well it’s called Nerd Overload and it’s pretty entertaining.

Nerd Overload started out a few years ago as Pizzacast! This lasted for the first 17 episodes, and the 18th podcast on the web site officially changes the name to Nerd Overload Podcast. I haven’t listened to any of the early episodes, so I can’t really say much about them. I’ve honestly only listened to the past few months of content, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve listened to.

Each episode is about an hour long and they talk about different pop culture news, giving their opinions on casting announcements, movie trailers, new video game releases, etc. Since there are four hosts there is a nice conversational roundtable happening and that makes it really nice to listen to. I really like that listening to the podcast makes me feel like I’ve gotten together with some friends to just talk about geeky topics. It’s fabulous.

The 100th episode of Nerd Overload Podcast aired about a month ago, which is an awesome milestone to celebrate, so congratulations NO! Now onto the next 100, right?

Okay, so I have to share this, because I find it to be amusing. On the Nerd Overload Web site there is a page for the history of NO and it says:

Years ago before the dawn of man, in a wet subterranian cave, three elder gods who defy all description met around a faintly glowing obsidian spire. “In the future, there will be a human invention called the internet.” said one being through his many tooth-ed mouths, “and on it I would like there to be a page where I can read features, reviews, and cool stuff about comics, movies, video games, and all kinds of nerdy things of that nature.”
“So it shall be,” said the other creature, telepathically, through his exposed and throbbing brain, “It shall be called Pizza Xtreme Team and it shall come to be on December 5th in the year of two thousand and eleven.” The obsidian spire rocked, and glowed a bright red light. It was to be.

Or at least something along those lines occurred. Pizza Xtreme Team was then ran for two years by its founding members (Sam, Cody, and Samantha, unknowingly doing the bidding of the three subterranian kings), when it suddenly dawned on them that “Pizza Xtreme Team” was a really dumb name that probably no one would ever take seriously.
So Nerd Overload was born. Enjoy!

(story may only be partially true)

See what I mean, this group is entertaining.

Aside from the podcast, the Web site also hosts photo galleries and articles on all sorts of nerdy topics, ranging from TV and movies, to tabletop and video games, to comics, toys, and even crafting. My co-worker friend has even suggested that maybe I could write up some book reviews, and my answer is maybe. At the moment I have my hands full with maintaining this blog and writing my novels.

I recommend checking out this crafting article about building a PVC bow for LARPing. Or there’s this Let’s Play video with most of the NO cast playing Daikatana. Basically no matter what nerd arena interests you, you’re sure to find something about it on Nerd Overload.

Oh, and Nerd Overload is looking for more people to create content, especially news article authors and featured content. If this is something you might be interested in, apply here.

Well, that’s it for this week’s Signal Boost. Have a great weekend everyone.