The Time Travel Chronicles – Diverse Perspectives on Time


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In diving into The Time Travel Chronicles, I dive into a long tradition of Science Fiction / Alternate History stories on time travel. I’ve only started into the book with Gambit and Hereafter. This is a great anthology from different perspectives, temperaments, and storylines all examining time travel. The first story I read (second in the book) is from the perspective of an historian (how cool would it be to do first-hand research; not just original sources depicting the even, but the even itself.) and the other is from a scientist. Both have the descriptive detail and moving narrative arc of a storyteller.  The Time Travel Chronicles was released just 4 days ago and tonight there’s a celebratory Facebook Launch Party! Join the fun if you want to (virtually) meet some cool authors and learn a bit more about the book (which happens to be #1 amongst SciFi Anthologies right now).


Rysa Walker

While not the first in the book, I started with Rysa Walker’s Gambit because I recently finished Time’s Divide and was still well immersed in the Chronos Files world (starting in Time Bound, then Time’s Edge and concluding with Time’s Divide). In this story, we find a lovely peek into the first blush of Saul and Katherine’s relationship, Saul’s megalomaniac mind, and late 18th spiritualist manipulations. Ms. Walker does a nice job explaining the potential dilemmas of a time traveling historian – her main point being that we would all succumb to meddling to prevent horror and evil. We would all have fixed it so the bomb would go off in Hilter’s Eagles Nest. We would push Kennedy down sooner. We would whisk Archduke Ferdinand away. (Would that really stop the Great War? Unlikely.)  As she wrote: “Even those of us who have absolute faith in our ability to screw things up might be tempted to tweak things just a bit, whether for humanitarian reasons or for personal gain.” In other words, we would all succumb, whether for good intentions or ill, to play God, even with a deep understanding of the law of unintended consequences. It is the sin as old as time itself.


Samuel Peralta

The next story I read, Hereafter, I read because of, well, science. Mr. Peralta writes from the perspective of a scientist. I got science, but I also got poetry and a poignant love story. Due to the physics of time travel in this book, there are only time slices accessible to us for brief periods. Like a temporal strobe light, people meet at touch points. Long distance relationships are rough, meeting in snippets of time is rougher.

While I’ve yet to read the rest of the anthology, and I will be updating this post as I do, these two stories are indicative of how differently a theme can be handled. Different isn’t bad. I love the diverse, but good perspectives both elicit. I anticipate the remaining stories to be equally diverse and well done.

Kudos to Crystal Watanabe for editing such a great anthology and all the authors for bringing their inner worlds to life for us on such a fun and provocative topic.

Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic’s Beethoven Symphony Nr. 9 – Teutonic Greatness with a Touch of British Temperament


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Remember that moment when Christian Bale hears the opening notes to Beethoven’s Nr. 9 (“Chorale”) Symphony in Equilibrium and he simply drops an Eiffle Tower snow globe, mouth agape? No? Wow, go watch it, it’s a great movie. Bale is so moved because that is the first piece of music he has ever heard in his life and he is viscerally struck by the stark beauty of it.


I had a bit of that moment listening to Simon Rattle conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in the same piece. This time, however, it was in the lush strings in the 4th movement Allegro Assai, think very joyful, just before the introduction to what we’ve come to think of as “Ode to Joy”. The sound is so rich, it completely brought me out of my reverie. I then started to focus on the controlled pull in the music before the big sound really comes. The fusion of Simon Rattle’s and Beethoven’s dramatic flairs really pay dividends here as you are moved from lush but controlled sound to the big brass and voice introduction to “Ode to Joy”.


Sir Simon Rattle

So I was taken by surprise in this particular recording. Some apparently think that Mr. Rattle doesn’t have the Teutonic sensibility needed for Beethoven. They suggest that British sensibilities are out of touch with the warmth and ardor of this Germanic masterpiece. I’m not going to argue the point; I’ll simply say this recording is beautifully executed, conveys emotional impact, and lays the emphasis in all the right places. Does it hold back more than some? Probably. Is it mechanical? Not even close.

From its famous opening to the chorus singing “Ode to Joy”, Mr. Rattle, along with the Vienna Philharmonic, draws us into a soundscape describing hope, fear, love, loss, and, yes, joy. With light deft touches, layered lush strings and brass clarion calls to join in, we’re brought on a wonderful musical journey. The chorus and singers perform their craft admirably.

Here’s a little taste of Mr. Rattle performing the same piece with the Berlin Philharmonic:

I’m delighted to have this recording join my collection. It stands up nicely with Herbert Von Karajan’s recording with the Berlin Philharmonic, albeit from a different era. Here it becomes a matter of taste. While I love von Karajan (the one I’m referencing is the ’84 DG “digital gold” recording which I like due to the great sound engineering, although the ’63 is cherished as well), there are times it seems a bit heavy handed. There are times Mr. Rattle seems a bit understated. Maybe I lack the Teutonic passion and musical wisdom of some, but both are great. Simon Rattle’s version stands tall and, at moments, takes your breath away.

Happy listening.

Anne Akiko Meyers’ Serenade – Technical Felicity Married to an Emotionally Charged Interpretation of Love.


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Anne Akiko Meyers – Courtesy

I’ve been living with Anne Akiko Meyers‘ Serenade album for a bit over a month now (I received it the day it released, September 18th). I usually post a little quicker, but there is so much packed into this album, I took a bit longer (plus, I was wicked busy with book reviews). This album incorporates four elements I love – philosophy, books, music, and movies. The main set piece for the album is Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade which is inspired by Plato’s Symposium; If you’re interested in it, recommend reading Percy Shelley’s translation; normally I would pick something more contemporary but for this, only a poet will do. Just to help you dust off your memory of ancient Greek Philosophy, the Symposium essentially incorporates the equivalent of after-dinner (and while drinking) speeches on the nature of love. These speeches were carried out by a number of characters, including Socrates. Aristophanes, the comic playwright, had one of the more impressive speeches. While I think C. S. Lewis’s Four Loves provides more helpful reflections on the nature of love, the Symposium is a great exposition of Platonic love. All of that being said, Mr. Bernstein indicated that these were inspirations and this symphony shouldn’t be taken as a musical translation of the ideas. For more on the philosophical aspects of the piece, please see Philosophy Talk’s Episode In Praise of Love.

One of many aspects of Ms. Meyer’s artistry I love is that she brings to light pieces outside the more standard repertoire. She gives them a peerless dust-off for a new introduction to a contemporary audience. This was the first time I’ve ever heard Serenade and I’m thrilled with the opportunity to hear it.

In the opening, you’ll find as notes slide into one another similar riffs in West Side Story. Some of the more abrupt transitions remind one of Candide and there are even hints of Mass. It’s all Bernstein and it’s all fabulous. Ms. Meyer’s brings out the emotion with precision. She continues her traditional of intimate sound albeit with the soundstage widened a bit. I can think of a number of artists who could play the fast staccato with equal felicity and a number of artists who can evoke the emotion of broader movements, but it’s rare to find someone who can interpret and execute that interpretation on the wide array of soundscapes Ms. Meyers paints. It’s beautifully done.


Ms. Meyers next ploughs into (mostly) love themes from the cinema. The Morricones’ “Love Theme” from Cinema Paradiso is one of my favorites, as is “Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission. Both of those are lovely, lilting pieces that pull at our hearts, but not in a cloying way. They contain haunting, piercing beauty that is almost overwhelming. Contrast these with the much broader, lush “Laura” or “Someone to Watch Over Me.” While both types are good, there’s a bit more sentimentality layered on the later.

Michele Colombier’s “Emmanuel” is somewhere between the two. It doesn’t pierce but rather permeates your soul with its melody. Ms. Meyers plays directly on your heart and she’s pulling all of the strings. She then brings the Latin heat of the Tango with Jacob Gade’s “Jalousie”. I felt a bit liked I’ve stumbled onto a 30’s movie set listening to this one. Yet Ms. Meyer’s treats it with the same care, respect and dexterity as any piece by Bach. It all works so well. Matthew Naughtin’s arrangement of “Jalousie” flows admirably into Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” (what, no concertina?)

While there is unity of theme, this album has a variety of styles yet Ms. Meyers make it seem like they belong together. Not because she makes them sound alike but because of the similar musical themes and her excellent, consistent playing. While some may be tempted to dismiss the album as a bit too pop-oriented, it is a treasure trove of beautiful songs that round out Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade.

The Literary Landscape In 2015: The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times


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Writing is a tough profession. It’s probably one of the things you want to do for living only if you can’t stop yourself. It is particularly challenging now. There are, we’re told, fewer readers. It’s also impossible to just write; you have to be a project manager, marketer, public relations person and you had better be nice to boot. We’ve heard the frightful statistics with regard to average amount of books read (although Pew Research suggests this may not be as bad as thought) combined with more being published than ever before (there were 391,000 books published in the US in 2013 (including a 59% increase in self-published books), see The Guardian; that’s a lot of choices. Add on top of this the plethora of choices on where to spend their time make writing a difficult profession. So, the literary landscape of 2015 finds challenges for an author but also has more ways to get her work in front of the eyes of readers than ever before.  While there are more avenues than ever before from which to publish and the barriers for doing so lower than ever before, the financial rewards are also harder to come by. Yes,  the writer’s world is fraught with opportunities and challenges above and beyond those normally found in the craft of writing. Of course, I’m not sure there ever was a time that any but a few could make a living writing while avoiding promotional activities like book tours.


For the reader, however, it seems to be a golden age. At least for this reader, books, short stories, poems, audiobooks, and even audio plays are more available than ever before. For all the putative evil of that Goliath, Amazon, many of the barriers of financial and other access have been dramatically reduced due to the mixed blessing of their efforts. They have considerably eased the process of self and independent publishing; I’m not saying it’s easy, just that it is possible beyond an old-school vanity print. They have programs like Amazon Crossing which publishes translations of non-English work (such as Rosa Montero’s brilliant Tears in Rain) and spur on new writers through programs like Kindle Scout. Now, before I start sounding like a shill for Amazon, they are an 800-pound gorilla in publishing and they’ll abuse that position. I will read fewer books if it means a “Fair Trade” for authors rather than abuse of their labor. Nonetheless, these programs, and others like them by other companies, help bring new, diverse work into the readers hands. Audible, now an Amazon company, has done much the same for audiobooks. Now, some might argue that the craft of writing and narrating have suffered as a consequence. All of the support of editors and the publisher’s critical eye is missing, at least in self-publication and the quality narrating audiobooks may have diminished due to placing a narrator in a booth with little or no direction. Surely quantity doesn’t override quality (all of the twentieth century has seen more publications than we can reasonably read). No, it not just more voices given a venue in literature, but the kinds of voices who would not have a platform. You cannot deny the reduced physical cost of publishing a book (especially compared to a traditional publishing of a hardback) and distributing it has been substantially reduced as have producing audiobooks  (no more huge plastic cases of cassettes) and financial hurdles to audio books. Remember renting abridged audiobooks? Me neither.


Not only are more books published, many quite good and more diverse than traditional publishing provided, and made accessible, but connection with authors is easier than ever before. Through social media, sites like Riffle and Goodreads (yes another company brought into the Amazon fold) and easier direct interaction, there are a myriad of ways to connect with your favorite authors. There are opportunities like NetGalley providing ways to be involved in the publishing process as never before. Becoming a beta reader, giving feedback on advanced reviewer’s copies and writing reviews on places like Medium and WordPress allow your passion to be shared far beyond your local book club.


This fall, at least for me, provides a stark example of how intense it can become. I had the opportunity to read and review five books published within two months (September and October). Now for some of you, that’s no great shakes. For this humble soul, with wife, children and a day job, this was a challenging schedule. I was a beta reader for one of the books, part of a blog tour for another and a joined a launch party on Facebook for a third. While I somewhat bemoaned them all coming out so closely together, how cool of a literary world is it when you can be so involved with authors and some great work. Interestingly enough, all of them are part of a series. Michael Underwood’s Hexomancy (September release) the third (full) Ree Reyes book, Kameron Hurley’s Empire Ascendant (October Release) is the second Worldbreaker book, Christina Farley’s Brazen (September release) is the third Gilded series book, Rysa Walker’s Time’s Divide (October Release) is the third Chronos Files book and N. J. Tanger’s Helios (October Release) is the second Universe Eventual book. What a privilege it is to join in, share, review, and celebrate all of these new works. Obviously, the first line of thanks goes to the authors and their hard work, but all of the confluences of digital publishing, social media, author sites and timing made it possible for me to join in.


Now this doesn’t account for all my “reading” during these two months. Due to the joy of audiobooks (and longish walks), I also read Jennifer Foehner Well’s Fluency, Frank Herbert’s Dune (first time I heard it on audio – amazing multi-cast narrative performance),  Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Star Wars (another well-produced multi-cast performance), Camille Griep’s Letters to Zell,  Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet: Dauntless,  Wesley Chu’s Rebirths of Tao, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion,  David Wong’s Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits and Ian Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (David Tennant was amazing). No, I haven’t reviewed them all and some, like Dune, I’ll never review – they have their audience and acclaim. Given what I’ve read about the average number of books folks read (the median for American adults over 18 is 5 books a year according to a 2013 Pew Research Study) this isn’t too bad for two months. Again it isn’t just about quantity. During these two months,  I experienced the joys of watching geek interest become superpowers, the waxing and waning of various moons dramatically affecting multiple diverse cultures and their politics, good guy and bad guy time travelers battling for the true future, and teams attempting to save humanity while they tear themselves apart.


This was just the written word. I listened to the challenge of alien species interacting with humans, a desert messiah rise up against an empire, the ongoing fight against another Empire (and those who misguidedly serve it), joined three close knit friends who happen to be princesses bemoaning the loss of one of their number to running a Unicorn preserve, followed a well orchestrate military action in space, fought the good fight against a race who thinks humans are expendable, listened to beautiful stories of love and loss against a hellish beast, a daughter come into a modern gangster’s inheritance in a future Las Vegas-style town and witness life and death struggle against a leader in SMERSH with the unlikely help of the Unione Corse (Corsican mafia). Those who haven’t read these book experienced none of this (at least not in the way these authors provide). So, while it was somewhat of a feat to visually and audibly read these books, the benefit is all mine.


While I will always love the smell and feel of printed books, there is no way I could’ve done this with only physical copies. Publishers could not afford to send out advanced review copies to as many as they do now by making e-books available, I would not have had an opportunity to read, let alone review this many physical books. For one, I couldn’t have afforded them. For another, I could not have had them so often easily by my side, nor could I so easily keep notes in search to help in preparation for reviews. That’s just the written works. Back in the cassette or CD days, I would’ve been lucky to be able to afford and find time to listen to one of the audiobooks. Libraries would not have had the diverse kinds of literature to which I listened.


No, this is the best of days to be a reader and for many authors, the only days their work would have seen the light of day. So, I get it that many people harken back to the days of small, local bookstores and print books, and I love those as well, but I’m glad I also have e-books, downloadable audiobooks and ways to engage with authors beyond the occasional book signing or conference.

Universe Eventual: Helios, an intense, fast-paced, Machiavellian space drama


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Helios continues the Universe Eventual saga begun with Chimera. This is a fast-paced space drama with tense action, tight dialog, and tangled relationships. It takes the “boot camp” cadets from Chimera into a military academy experience on a space station prepping them for a real mission. (Warning: there are spoilers for any who haven’t read Chimera. Read it before Helios or this review.) Marcus continues his manipulative and deceitful ways to push forward his agenda which is made all the easier by Chief Moorland’s willingness to meet her goals to save those in her care on Stephen’s Point by any means necessary, Doctor Duncan’s nearly blind faith and Meghan’s naïveté. Even Selena’ s skepticism can’t keep Marcus’ Machiavellian schemes at bay. Adding to the great cast of characters is one of the most intriguing – Chimera herself. She is a bit of an enigma but plays a forceful role as the drama unfolds.

There are so many elements that come to play in Helios. We have science problems and other puzzles to solve, chief among which is getting Chimera free to take the return journey to Earth. We have challenges to overcome, people to motivate, a world to save and the unknown, but likely a bleak future based on the strange events surrounding Exchange Four. All of this occurs in the backdrop of a largely student-run training arena with Marcus in the lead. This must be student-led because it is only this generation who may take the Chimera back to Earth. So this book has a bit of everything but never loses its way, never becomes too tangled to follow and delivers it all in at a quick clip.

[Full Disclosure: I received an advanced review copy for an honest review.]

N J Tanger

Courtesy Facebook, The Universe Eventual Team. From right to left: Nathan M. Beauchamp, Rachael Tanger, and Joshua Russell.

Amongst all of the loveliness of the store, there is a bit of a challenge with this novel; it is dark for much of the novel. It is similar to Revenge of the Sith in that it seems the bad guys win all too frequently. The author’s promise us this tide will turn, that this will be the series’s “Empire Strikes Back” or Frodo and Sam in Mordor, with the Jedi and the King yet to come into their own.

What did I loved:

  • Fast-paced with crisp dialog.
  • Machiavellian machinations from Marcus that would make Palpatine
  • Interesting characters and relationships (especially Moorland/Marcus, Moorland/Duncan and Theo/Selena/Meghan but others as well).
  • Clever, well-executed story arc
  • Another cool cover
  • A beautiful mix of puzzles, people, and passion.

Of what was I less fond?

  • Dark, with little relief

Helios is out today (October 24th)! I highly recommend it for your reading pleasure.

************************Light spoilers*******************

While writing this review, I was struck by the parallels I saw between Revenge of the Sith and Helios. While all of these types of comparisons break-down, just ponder

  • Marcus – Palpatine
  • Theo – Anakin
  • Selena – Han, a bit scruffy, rebellious and somewhat cynical
  • Chief Moorland – Senator Bail Organa (Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum would probably be a better fit if he were in Revenge)
  • Duncan – Obi-Wan (Qui-Gon Jinn, if he were still alive)
  • Meghan – Padme

I was also struck by how Lord of the Flies the whole thing becomes while on Chimera. Now that Marcus is fully in charge, he will stop at nothing to get his way. The film Taps also comes to mind. Of course, Helios is none of these and wraps in elements of all of these. You get the science and world saving of Interstellar, the science puzzle solving of The Martian, the interaction of Taps and Lord of the Flies. It’s pretty amazing to do all that while keeping it coherent.

Rysa Walker’s Time’s Divide Reviewed: A Gloriously Messy and Human Conclusion to the Chronos Files Series


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Time's Divide Cover

Rysa Walker brings her Chronos Files series to a brilliantly crafted conclusion in Time’s Divide. Even as Kate and her comrades must traverse a tightrope of tightly timed challenges so Ms. Walker walks that fine line between bringing a series to a clear conclusion or artificially wrapping everything in a nice bow. Ms. Walker consistently chooses an organic realism to her characters, world and storyline over perfect people and perfectly controlled circumstances. While clearly centered in the speculative fiction world, she follows that grand tradition of asking – what if this (time travel) were true in our messy world; what would it be like? She explores the possibilities rather than trying to nail down all of the answers which, of course, makes for a far richer story; she is particularly good at bringing to life unintended consequences.

[Full disclosure: I received an advanced review copy on Netgalley for an honest review.] Also, note that there are spoiler’s below for any who haven’t read Timebound or Time’s Edge yet. Read those two before Time’s Divide (and this review).

Rysa Walker

Rysa Walker

In Time’s Divide, we are more fully introduced to the Fifth Column, Cyrist insiders that don’t support the Culling, dive into the plan to stop the Cyrist on two fronts – stopping the Culling and stop time traveling by getting the Chronos keys. This would be relatively easy if your enemy couldn’t also time travel. There would still be unintended consequences from all of the ripples of changes they couldn’t anticipate. So, you need to be sneaky and pull off near-simultaneous missions with fewer resources and less ruthlessness than your enemy (because you don’t want to become like the enemy). You also need to be specific and as laser focused as possible due to said unintended consequence.

So what do I love about Time’s Divide?

  • It brings the series to a good conclusion with a clear end to the dramatic “time war” while being an organic end where everything isn’t wrapped up in a neat bow. Challenges continue, bad guys abound and tough decisions need to be made but on a more reasonable human scale. You know, like real life.
  • It brings a few new folks and changes to existing ones and relationships. The deeper dive into the Fifth Column, and its leadership demonstrate a mixed, human organization, not a perfect one.
  • I’m glad that “regular” yet awkward stuff happens such as the lunch with Pru and Deborah, the personality clashes of Max and Kate and that even Kate needs her sleep.
  • It has good multi-dimensional characters who have messy lives and relationships.
  • I’m delighted that Kiernan and Kate avoid killing in cold blood, even diabolical people. It may not have the clear tie to good consequences as the staying of Bilbo’s hand and his pity saved the day in Lord of the Rings, but it clearly preserved their character and, hence, their ability to live well after the “time war.”
  • While there are some surprises in the story, they too are organic – they are compatible with what has gone before not some huge shift.
  • I love the adroitly handled time puzzles. The two most frequent mistakes embedding time travel in a story is to ignore the conundrums or to blithely explain them away. Ms. Walker avoids both. I am particularly glad that Ms. Walker was comfortable enough to raise time traveling questions without feeling that she had to answer them all. She doesn’t just ignore the questions; there’s a healthy amount of time travel analysis and explication (mostly through dialog), but limits are recognized.
  • She clearly demonstrated our inadequacy of playing God. We cannot micromanage history. The law of unintended consequences is too strong. As much as we want to fix things, the cure is often worse than the problem. Yes there are times when we must intervene, but that needs to be rare and focused.
  • I love the family get-together at the end.

Of what am I less fond? Very little. I think religion, not just the false Cyrist creed, gets a bit of a bad rap in the novels. Ms. Walker seems to paint it all with the same brush. She’s not belligerent, but it is presented as a very human activity that may be more than opium for the masses but not much more. As a Christian, I believe that’s incorrect, but from a pure novel perspective, it doesn’t overly impact the story.

Since I read this prior to publishing, I didn’t have an opportunity to listen to Kate Rudd’s performance of the audiobook, but given she’s one of my favorite narrotors and having heard her already fabulous performance of Timebound, I’ll go out on a limb and recommend it.


Hear Rysa Walker on The Chronos Files

Go here for the full interview, including her take on publishing with Amazon.


So clearly the theme here is an excellent YA story that is neither Disney nor Walking Dead. It nicely reflects humans and our foibles, both individual and corporate. It does a beautiful job of building that story arc across the three novels and explores the theme of time travel better than most. I highly comment Time’s Divide for your reading pleasure.

Christina Farley’s Brazen, an Epic, Intimate Tale of Imperfect Heroes


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Blog Tour Banner

Today we’re celebrating the release of BRAZEN by Christina Farley with a review of Brazen. Now, it might sound like I’m thereby a little biased in my review, so let’s get this out in the open – I really like the Gilded series and Brazen in particular. I’ll give you all of the reasons below, so I’m more than happy to join Ms. Farley Blog tour but the review is my honest opinion. [Since we’re disclosing, I received an advanced copy for an honest review.]  Brazen is the third and final book in the Gilded series about a sixteen-year old girl who must use her martial art skills and wits to save her family, friends, and country from an evil Korean god.

To learn more about this series, visit the “Gilded Series website”

Watch GILDED’s book trailer here!

Brazen Group

Find it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads | Indie

Be sure to pick up the letter for this stop at the end of this post to earn extra points in the Kindle Fire or $50 Amazon gift card giveaway! Collect all the letters during the blog tour to spell out the secret message to earn more points.

Many series authors talk about having the opportunity to pick up the pace a bit in later books in a series because they’ve already laid the foundation of the worlds and characters. Christina Farley has done this with a vengeance. From page 1, the ride is on nitro-power, afterburners aglow and rarely a breath before the end. It’s almost as if she’s saying “You want action? I’ll give you action!” Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t dumbed-down action devoid of dialog, characters or continued world building. It is, however, fast. There is a sense that Ms. Farley has grown more comfortable with her characters and their setting as she completes the series.  She continues to grow her world with new characters or deeper dives into existing characters, we have China thrown into the mix and see interaction between Korean and Chinese forces as well as a glimpse into the Chinese mythical world. There is serious strife in the land of Azure Hills. Indeed, even as Kud’s efforts to take over the Spirit World’s equivalent of South Korea make headway, we see prescient rumblings between North and South Korea in the regular world all too familiar to our own recent news. (For a synopsis of the story, see Goodreads. There are spoilers below for those how haven’t read Gilded, book 1 or Silvern, book 2. Read those prior to the book and this review)

While all of the Gilded series is well written, there’s a certain natural ease with which the story flows in Brazen. After you read it, you think “Yes, that’s the way it must go.” Even when there are areas where the story seems to falter, you realize that was a purposeful hitch that builds the storyline. I think I can give an example without any major spoilers. Jae Hwa meets with the Guardians of Shinshi who understandably don’t trust her because she is under contract to Kud. They meet for Jae Hwa to urge that they join forces, that their goals are the same. The Guardians don’t buy it. At first blush, I think, what a wasted meeting (although there were other benefits). There was little chance they we’re going to come to an agreement. Then I realize how often that happens in real life. There’s hope, albeit slim, going into a meeting and hopes are often dashed. Sometimes they’re met. Jae Hwa’s story has its ups and downs. The periodic missteps are the elements of the story that ground it in reality.


Christina Farley, courtesy & Liga Photography

Jae Hwa doesn’t make every decision perfectly or perfectly execute on the ones she pursues. Gee, the feels like me. Yet she presses on against what seems like insurmountable odds. Wait, me. Pain and sorrow meet her all too often along path. You get the picture. She is a hero with whom we can all identity. You don’t have to be a cute teen to get her story nor to empathize with her character. No one is perfect in this story and that makes all the better the fact that our heroine, Jae Hwa, continues to pursue her goals despite her foibles. It reminds me of a 1981 Ronald Regan speech (the sentiment comes through whatever your politics):

All of us came here because we knew the country couldn’t go on the way it was going. So it falls to all of us to take action. We have to ask ourselves if we do nothing, where does all of this end. Can anyone here say that if we can’t do it, someone down the road can do it, and if no one does it, what happens to the country? All of us know the economy would face an eventual collapse. I know it’s a hell of a challenge, but ask yourselves if not us, who, if not now, when?

Those are the questions Jae Hwa answers with “Here am I. Send me” as I hope to answer in my own story.

What do I love about Brazen?

  • The epic story sweeping across countries and people. There are major stakes in play.
  • The intimate story about a couple of teens struggling in the most difficult of times to stand together.
  • The mythic story where Korean (and Chinese) mythical gods and creatures come to life. While this is my third book into this world, Christina Farley continues to make it fresh.
  • The ride. Pages were slamming by as I was caught up in the story. Bed time? Ha! That’s for TV watchers.
  • The imperfect characters show that being brave isn’t about being impervious or perfect. It’s about pushing on even though you know you won’t get it perfectly right, trying even though it looks like you’ll fail.

Of what was I less fond?

Chirp, chirp, chirp – really, the only thing I can think of is that some great characters were lost along the way. That has to be, to make a great story, but it is sad nonetheless.

Clearly, I highly commend Brazen for your reading pleasure. It’s one series whose ending lives up to its promise.

 About the Author:
CHRISTINA FARLEY is the author of the Gilded series, a YA contemporary fantasy series set in Korea. GILDED was nominated for Korea’s 2014 Morning Calm, Ohio’s 2015 Buckeye award, and the Tome’s It List. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world. Christina’s adventures sparked her to write stories, infusing the real world with fantasy. Currently she writes from home in Clermont, FL with her husband and two sons—that is until the travel itch whisks her off to a new unknown.


Find Christina Here:
To celebrate the release of BRAZEN, Christina is giving away a Kindle Fire (US only) and a $50 Amazon gift card (international)


The letter for this stop is: T  


Collect all the  letters from the blog tour to earn more points!

Next up on Christina Farley’s Blog Tour – Tez Miller with a post on mythological characters in Brazen)

Empire Ascendant Continues the Unfolding of Kameron Hurley’s Genius


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Kameron Hurley once again draws us into her world(s), I should say, rips us across the seam into her world of lush, dangerous vegetation, world domination for survival, schemes and counter-schemes. With Empire Ascendant, releasing tomorrow, October 6th, Ms. Hurley’s continues her gripping tale of the epic Worldbreaker series with all of the fighting for survival, cultural preservation and personal relationships begun in The Mirror Empire. Her world-creation is second to none, her characters are complex and her deftly threaded storyline compelling. Ms. Hurley is clearly on the top of her craft hitting on all cylinders in writing this series. There are two challenges that remain to make all of this great writing into a great book (at least, for my preferences) – a major character who totally draws me into caring deeply about him or her (or hir, about which more later) and the dark, violent and treacherous nature of her world. Indeed, I will dive a little deeper into many of the same topics presented in my review of The Mirror Empire. Now I know lots of people love dark writing, and they will find their love met here; I prefer serious conflict without ever losing sight of the light. Where I would often avoid such a dark story with no character in whom I’m invested (despite an incredibly interesting and rich cast of characters), I continue to be drawn to this series primarily due to Ms. Hurley’s imaginative genius (plus excellent execution of said imagination).

[Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy from Netgallery for an honest review]


The very qualities that make this book (and series) so compelling are the very things that make it difficult. The characters are multi-dimensional people with complex motives and a bewildering set of capabilities and goals. They are much like us except on steroids. Like us, none are perfect or perfectly execute on their desires. They often surprise us and, occasionally, even themselves. There are some who are mostly good, but even they are messed up. These same characteristics are the very ones which make it hard for me to invest in them. There are no heroes including candidates for the role of Lilia, Taigan or Ahkio.

There is conflict, the life-blood of a story. And there is blood, sweat, and tears. There is failure ripped from the jaws of success, then more failure. There is even occasional sacrifice. And there is death; death mounded up and with bucket loads of blood poured over it. There is vengeance and the reaping of what is sown. This is an inordinately violent, dark world of little trust and less value placed on human life. This is Darwinian survival of the fittest writ large across the cosmos. It is heartbreaking to witness even with no emotionally intimate connection with the characters. Part of this darkness is that this is her equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back; I’m just a little concerned that the Jedi may never return in this one, but I hold out hope.

I know that’s the cool thing these days. We love our post-apocalyptic worlds. We revel in our zombies and creatures of the night. Our own world has enough darkness in it for me, so this is darker than my preference.

Kameron Hurley

Kameron Hurley

Why do I press on in this series then? Kameron Hurley is a genius, that’s why. She has so many elements that mesh perfectly in her story. So many threads that are woven together driving you in further into the story. Everything works. Her people, politics and power-struggles all make sense. All of this is used to drive the narrative arc. Yes, I wish it was a more pleasant narrative, but I’ll take Ms. Hurley’s dark narrative over many a pleasant one despite my preferences. Reading her story is like watching a composer conduct a beautifully complex piece of modern orchestral music whilst controlling a laser light show, a chorus, a ballet troupe and a fireworks display all at once, all perfectly synchronizing and all telling the same tale in their various media. That is Ms. Hurley’s world and people. I simply read in awe.

The one choice-point she’s made in conveying this story that I find awkward is the way in which she references the Ataisa gender. It’s a neutral gender. I understand that she is trying to convey something that doesn’t exist for humans; it is other-worldly and there is no go language for it. Her us of ze (as a third person singular pronoun similar to he and she) and hir (equivalent of him/her for the neutral gender) draws attention to itself and is awkward. I have absolutely no clue how to do this better. There are no great choices, so this is a bit of nit, but there you are.

So, there are sick things that happen in the story. Man’s depravity is highlighted, underscored and paraded throughout the first two books of series. Some of you love this. I cannot help but be drawn in by her talent even though I don’t love the darkness displayed. If you enjoy the dark-side, you’re in for stellar delights. If you aren’t as interested, you may find this as compelling a read as I.

Janelle True Interview – a glimpse behind an Indie Artist


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Janelle True

I spent a marvelous Friday evening at the ever delightful Sola Coffee Café wit listening to the dulcet tones of Janelle True. More about the evening is in Janelle True At Sola Coffee Cafe Presents A Lovely Evening of Music. This is the promised interview.

Before diving into the core of the interview, here’s a bit of video introduction:


With no further ado, here’s the interview.

Her most recent album is available on AmazonCDBaby, and iTunes. For a review of Painted Pianos, see Janelle True’s Painted Pianos Album is a Musical Treasure.



Swept Away is also available on Amazon, CDBaby, and iTunes. Here’s a review of Swept Away.

Swept Away


To keep up with Janelle, here’s her site:

Finally, for those interested in the referenced film, here’s the Facebook page for A Mutilation of Faust.  Here’s their first trailer:


Camille Griep’s Letters to Zell, A Brilliant, Fun, Gut-Wrenching Exploration of Relationships


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Not only can Camille Griep get into my head, (witness More Reflections on Letters to Zell and Not Being “That Kind of Guy”) but she seems to have lived several lifetimes to be able to write such a fun yet never frivolous deep dive into relationships. How does she make thoroughly entertaining, engaging, challenging and even page-turning exciting letters to the fairy-tale princess Rapunzel from her friends Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella? (See Goodreads for a summary of the plot.) I think maybe she has more than a little fairy magic herself. Of course, Zell, Bianca, Rory & CeCi aren’t as we imagined them, nor is Grimmland. I’m now thinking Ms. Griep’s words bewitched me because I’ve done things I’ve never done before. I wrote two posts prior to finishing the book. I rarely do multiple posts on the same book, but I have never posted before I’ve read the whole thing. I felt a little like a stalker blog. The first two posts aren’t reviews, but musings on topics inspired by the book, its characters, and their relationships. Oh, wait, this her debut novel as well. Definitely magic.

This book makes you reflect – a lot. You reflect on how truthful you are with yourself and others. It makes you realize that almost all of your actions are tainted by selfishness; as a pastor friend once told me “I’ve never met an unmixed motive.” It makes you reflect on the ethics of pursuing what seems right for you juxtaposed to the impact on others. It makes you think about unintended consequences and when helping hurts. Most of all, it shows the importance of genuinely listening. Not listening to make a point, or give advice or fix an issue. Rather, giving and receiving full-on, face-on listening. All of that reflection, however, is bundled in this delightful package of the challenges these women face and working through it via letters to their now distant friend Zell. So, while it sounds like work and possibly a bit dull, it’s really fun and more than a little exciting.  Now, not to give any spoilers, but there is gut-wrenching sadness as well. Picture a good Cecil B. DeMille Biblical extravaganza with a man tearing his garments in two, then sitting on the ground and pouring ashes over his tear-streaked head. Yup, I was that guy a couple of times while reading. All of which is to say this is a special book whose pages I waded in lightly thinking it was just a fun premise and who came out of the ringer on the other side.


Camille Griep, photo courtesy of author’s Facebook page

What do I love about Letters to Zell?

  • The characters: they all have their challenging side and their charms, but they all feel real. Their quirks add flavor. They genuinely care about one another but often, unknowingly, care a bit more about themselves. You could definitely hang with them and have a pint or two. The breadth of characters are many and the names could be confusing, but you grew to love (most of) them. For example, there are so many times I well up in righteous indignation on behalf of some character only to realize it’s all a bit more complicated. We all fall short of the glory of God yet all are image-bearers. There is plenty of wrong we each do and there are some (mileage varies with the person) that we get right.
  • The relationships: We delude ourselves, present our delusions to others and we don’t listen. Those three issues permeate almost every challenge these four women must overcome. Yet they work through it all (mostly).
  • The “dialog”: the encounters among the ladies is given from differing first person accounts based on the letter’s author. Often, we’ll read multiple back-to-back accounts of the same events from the princesses’ various perspectives. This could have dragged on. Instead, the pacing, wording and variations all kept this fresh.
  • The world: While this isn’t the most complicated world in fantasy fiction, it is exceptionally well executed and clever. Ms. Griep unveils it through dialog and letters in due times and perfect measure.
  • The narrative arc: the storyline is brilliant. You begin thinking it’s about one thing and you land somewhere else. The story emerges so organically that you don’t realize how you got there.
  • Reflective entertainment: It’s a new genre. Seriously, few books that are this much fun have spurred this much reflection.

Of what am I less found?

  • I love Bianca’s snarkiness as a whole, but the f-bomb became the f-dud through overuse (and she’s not even from London). Her salutation of “Important F**king Correspondence from Snow B. White …: got a little old.
  • The use of a lesbian relationship in Grimmland seems a bit forced and people’s reactions seem unrealistic given it appears to be the one and only public instance. The relationship itself, like the rest, unfolds organically.
  • Guys come off looking pretty bad as a whole. Just saying.
Amy McFadden

Amy McFadden, courtesy of

As is my wont, I went between the Audible version, narrated by Amy McFadden and the Kindle version. The voices of Bianca, Rory and CeCi will be indelibly imprinted on my mind with Ms. McFadden’s performances. I’m a fan of Ms. McFadden’s narration being introduced to her through The Paper Magician series. Indeed, it was the fact the she narrated Letters to Zell (and its cool cover) that brought my attention to the book.

This is the perfect book for a book club or friends or husband and wife. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll see yourself in the characters as well as others. Mostly, you’ll see the futility of long-term feuds, rush to judgment and especially trying to prove you’re right. All those cute little motivational pictures you see on Facebook are right; life is too short to hold a grudge even when you are immortal. As a Christian, I sometimes don’t agree with some of the conclusions or approaches, but all the major lessons on relationships are brilliant.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Read it. Have fun and learn a little about yourself, how you spin your story and how to live an authentic life. I am officially a Zell-head (Camille, feel free to copyright). I wait with bated breath for her forthcoming New Charity Blues, coming in 2016 (I guess I’ll have to breathe a little until then.) Good reading.

[Banner photos courtesy of Camille Griep’s Facebook page]


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