Saturday, January 25, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Author Spotlight: Sharon Stevenson

FOR AVID READERS, if you haven't signed up for yet, do so. Then, search out a group called "Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Readers, Writers, and Reviewers" and join. It is the place to discuss tried-and-true authors in those genres, as well to discover new favorite authors- like featured Author of the Month, Sharon Stevenson.

I've had the pleasure to read the first couple books in Sharon's Gallows series, about a pair of butt-kicking demon hunter twins, and she recently launched a new series about a young man who wakes up an animated zombie. Writers, you know there's often that time when you'll want to tell a joke between two characters, and you're stuck thinking, "Crap, what would be funny?" Sharon Stevenson has a wicked sense of humor to be envious of, and the bantering between her characters comes off as effortless and natural. Add to that the fast pace, the twists, and a delightful crew of sailor-swearing, dark magical creatures that you'd rather like to hang out with at a bar, and you're already through the first two books in the Gallows series. Check out her Goodreads Page!

If you'd like to read my review of "Raised," the first book in her zombie series, check out my Book Review Page. Congrats again for being featured, Sharon!

Raised (Currently Free on Amazon!):

Blood Bound, Gallows Series #1:

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 2014 Book Review: Angelfall


By Susan Ee

~Book Review~

Warning! Minor Spoilers!

I DON’T THINK I’ve seen a book receive more 5 star reviews since JK Rowling/Rick Riordan’s popular Harry Potter/Percy Jackson series. This woman’s promotion strategy is solid!—and so is Angelfall.

Penryn struggles to save her kidnapped sister in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by majestic, beautiful, terrible angels. I’ve been lured into reading angel fantasy books like this before only to be turned-off when the plot is thrown out the window in favor of an insta-love romance. Thankfully, that is not the case here. The wingless angel Penryn befriends—Raffe—is a character in his own right and is not just there to serve as Hottie #1. He. Is. Hilarious! Rarely has a character made me laugh out loud so much. And Penryn? She is a badass who’s had to look out for herself since she was young due to her mother’s schizophrenia and a younger sister with disabilities who looks up to her. I’m looking forward to seeing more of said little sister, Paige; she seems like a sweetie despite what happens to her while kidnapped.

Penryn’s relationship with Raffe is very well-developed and their chemistry feels authentic. She doesn’t let Raffe lord his “mighty angel strength” over her and fights back with whatever weapons available to her. She reminds me of a Katniss, and Katniss has always been up there as one of my favorite literary fantasy heroines, along with Hermoine (Harry Potter) and Rose (Vampire Academy).

I just had one issue with the “girl-fight” that Tweedle-dee and Dum rope Penryn into. It was kinda an eye-roll moment; I mean, really? The guys are feeling horny during these dark, depressing times, so watching some ladies roll around in the mud will do the trick? Come on, Penryn. But I guess during these desperate times, desperate action was needed. Still, it’s annoying.

The villains’ presence is a little weak in this installment, but Ee has done a great job of setting up a potentially explosive Book II, as humans scramble to form a resistance against the tyrannical angels, and a power struggle between demon Belial, the Politician Uriel, and the underdog Raffe is brewing. I’m excited to see what Penryn’s role in the upcoming battles will be, as well as for more secrets to be divulged about how the end of the world really happened. And Penryn’s mother? She is definitely an oddball—I’m curious to learn more about her motivations. A thrilling, action-packed, easy read that will be done before you know it.

Recommended for fans of: Julie Kagawa, Suzanne Collins

February Book Review: Sanctum by Sarah Fine (yay, underworld!) and Ink by Amanda Sun (Set in Japan!)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hiking Jirisan 지리산

JIRISAN NATIONAL PARK (지리산국립공원) is located in the heart of South Korea, spanning across four counties in three different provinces. Along with Seorak San National Park, it was one of my must-sees while teaching in Korea, so I jumped at the chance to do a sunrise hike Friday night after the work week. Who wouldn’t when there was the chance to see one of these endangered fuzzy little guys?

Asiatic Black Bear. Photo Credit: Spencer77,
Packs of other Foreign English Teachers and Koreans swamped the Seoul Hiking Group bus, about forty of us in all. The drive from Seoul down to Jirisan took about five hours, and we arrived some point at around 2:30 am. We’d ceased seeing other cars a while back, and now it was just our bus in the middle of a thick woodland. We only had a couple of hours before the sun came up, so we hefted our packs, checked our water bottles, and hit the trail.

Our plan was to hike the strenuous East Ridge, which begins at the end of Highway 20 just past Sicheon Myeon (see map). Many among the group were hardcore hikers, who planned to do the entire ridge from Daewonsa to Georim, a distance of 16.8 miles (27km), estimated 10 hours. The bus would pick them up at the other end. For the rest of us, we would take the Chibanmok-Daewonsa Trail up to the ridge to pick out Cheonwangbong, the second highest peak in all of Korea.

This is one of the lushest hikes I’ve been on. Seorak San always made me think of granite, and I saw the same unique rock formations hiking in Jirisan, but overall, it was remarkably cool and shady. Also, the elevation gain was quite gradual; there weren’t too many of the steep ascents Seorak San is known for on this ridge hike.

While any bears remained well-hidden, the overcast temperatures and pleasant company of hikers along the way made this a quiet escape from the city. Anyone planning to do more extensive hiking in the park should check out this website.

The above is depicted as fiction, not fact.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Free Ebook News: The Tribe of Ishmael


I'm happy to announce The Tribe of Ishmael will be a free ebook on Amazon January 10-14th. Thanks so much for checking it out!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January 2014 Book Review: Wildefire


by Karsten Knight

~Book Review~


Warning! Minor Spoilers!

LET ME START OFF by saying that Wildefire is a fun, adrenaline-filled ride featuring everything from Egyptian gods of death to weird blue-eyed monsters straight out of Knight’s imagination. After a fight-gone-wrong at her old school leads to a fellow student's death, Polynesian-descended Ashline Wilde attends a private school in California, where she discovers she's the reincarnation of Pele the volcano goddess. Together with five other reincarnations--aforementioned awesome Egyptian goddess Raja, Japanese snow goddess Lily, Norse god Rolfe, Haitian-descended Zulu god Ade, and a Greek siren--they work to uncover the mystery of what their purpose is in the world. However, other older reincarnations with not-so-pure motives have their eyes on them.

Knight's style of writing does take some getting used to. This is definitely a no-nonsense, leap-headfirst-into-the-action type of book that doesn't dive too deep, and if you stop to breathe, then the story will be ten miles ahead of you. The opening scene alone introducing our budding volcano goddess, Ashline Wilde, and her older sister nemesis, Eve, demands a huge suspension of disbelief. Ashline gets into a fight with the popular girl at school who stole her scummy boyfriend, soundly kicks her *ss, but then said popular girl returns for vengeance and Eve kills her.


There's been a lot of reader discussion about the rather flippant attitude toward the violence in the book. Some readers have announced frustration that Ashline got into a fight, but I wasn't so bothered by that. Young literary guys don't get as much backlash for fighting--our culture seems to think it's expected of them, so why is it so taboo for girls to vent steam, too? After all, Ash is a young teenager prone to making mistakes--and a brooding volcano goddess at that. Pele isn't known for sweeping issues under the rug.

I did, however, find myself jarred from the narrative when Ashline sees Eve kill the popular girl and has a moment or two of guilt, but nothing earth-shattering. The book immediately moves on before giving Ashline time to grieve for her loss of innocence, the pointless violence of Lizzie Jacobs' death, the craziness of her sister, or something that would make her more 3-D than two-dimensional. I felt like I was the invisible person on the sidelines, screaming, "Hey! You do know Jacobs is actually dead, right? Your classmate? Someone's daughter? She can't come back. She's gone." Unfortunately, the moment just felt too glossed over, leaving the reader with the feeling that a) Okay, Eve is a psychopath and b) What does Ashline stand for? I don't know yet.

The flippancy continues at Ashline's new school, where she breezes by rules and regulations. Do you remember in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when Harry and his friends are breaking curfew even though they risk losing tons of points for their house, and then the strict, not-to-be-messed-with Professor McGonagall catches them? That's a kid's book, and I was still inwardly screaming, "Holy shit, Harry! Run! She's going to take away your POINTS!!" Yeah. Well, Ash and her friends go to a bar, sling back a couple cold ones, and when they get caught--the headmaster gives them a mild-mannered talking to. I mean, where's the authority figure or shadowy nemesis who's supposed to put the fear of God into me? Eve the crazy psychopath who doesn't seem to have any interesting ulterior motives? The unconcerned headmaster or Ash's adopted parents, for that matter? Weird blue-eyed monsters who float around? 


I didn't like Ash and Colt's insta-love, but at least Colt grew ten times more interesting at the end when his secret's out.

I also didn't like the handling of Lily's character. Sure, have her betray the group, but her reasons for doing so... she was really that much of a raging jealous b**** over Rolfe? At least say they hooked up in their past lives! I just couldn't buy that reason as justification for again, KILLING SOMEONE.



In some ways, this book feels like a set-up for the rest of the series. It has a chaotic feeling to it considering the shambles the group is in at the end, and the newly awakened gods barely develop their powers. However, I'm writing this review after reading Book II: Embers and Echoes, and I can tell you that I enjoyed the second book immensely more than the first. There's a lot more of the gods in action, fighting off baddies, and Ash might even mature a little. As far as diversity of cultures goes, this book is top-notch. I appreciated that Ash was always the undisputed leader of the group, she doesn't put up with sh** from anyone, lover or friend, and despite her juvenile nature in Book I, there's just something endearing about her. Like Pele, she is all passion and emotion, and perhaps that's what's so frustrating to some readers, that it is impossible for her to be tamed or controlled.

Recommended for fans of: Eoin Colfer, Rick Riordan, Holly Black
Upcoming January Book Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee


Saturday, January 4, 2014

January 2014 Book Review: Girl with Flying Weapons


By Aya Ling

~Book Review~

*I received a free copy of this book for review, which does not affect my opinion in any way*

SET IN ninth-century feudal China, Girl with Flying Weapons is an atmospheric mystery that weaves together the lives of the mysterious servant girl Hong and her master, the governor’s son—recently accused of murder.

The opening chapter brings the lush, fairytale quality of this story to life with a stealthy murder committed on a lantern-decked riverboat. We’re soon introduced to Hong, a quietly endearing heroine who trains with Old Man Liu to be a skilled martial artist/spy. Her love interest, Fang, is also refreshingly humble and well-intentioned, and the romance that blossoms between them is slow and sweet. The names, places, and phrases feel remarkably researched, and there was never an instant when I felt knocked out of ninth-century China and back into the twenty-first century.

Hong works mostly in the background to uncover the forces conspiring to frame Fang for murder, and there isn’t too much of her in action with the flying weapons in this book—however, that narrative choice feels more realistic. I also hope to read more about Hong’s backstory and motivations to pick up learning the martial arts in future stories. All in all, the story was engaging and the characters likeable, recommended for YA age and up! I’m looking forward to what Aya Ling has in store for Hong next.

Recommended for fans of: Alison Goodman, Kristin Cashore

Upcoming January Book Review: Wildfire by Karsten Knight and Angelfall by Susan Ee

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Tribe of Ishmael is Published!

Happy New Year, everyone!

A special congrats to everyone born under the Year of the Horse (2014), hope it's a good one for you :)

In other news, Afterlife Chronicles I: THE TRIBE OF ISHMAEL is now published on! Yay! (does happy dance). Find further news on the book's page and stay tuned for chapter excerpts and extra goodies :)

This January, look forward to more book reviews on three favorites (Wildfire by Karsten Knight, Angelfall by Susan Ee, and Girl with Flying Weapons by Aya Ling, which I had the honor of beta reading). Also look for a post on hiking Jiri-san in South Korea, which I have meant to get around to for some time now...

Hope you got some good books for Christmas, and I hope the New Year brings you just enough challenges to make you stronger and realize how amazing you are! Go 2014!