The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Kat and More

May 7, 2018 at 2:24 am (dark fantasy, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

I recently completed 6th Turn: Kat, my latest read in Ren Garcia’s League of Elder series. I’m a big fan of his writing, and I enjoyed this book because it was a particularly dark story line but followed the action with a consistent thread of hope (I felt the same way Mentralysis, my previous read.)

This was another world-building win from Ren, and was definitely a favourite so far. The story ventures into the realm of the Black Hats – we get to see their creation process with all of its cruelty and suffering, and then follow four shadowtech females sent out on their first mission where success will mean new status. One stands out amongst the others, and when things take a turn for the worse, she manages to overcome adversity with the help of her “angels”. Her quest takes its own turn and she abandons her original mission for a completely new goal.

I loved following her transformation, the budding romance that matures into something stronger and how she deals with all of the obstacles she must face while trying to achieve her higher purpose as the Covus. She’s no fragile flower, fighting, even killing when necessary to protect the ones she cares about.

I liked some of the scenes so much I went back and reread them after I finished the book. I especially enjoyed their startling trip to Vain (with its air of a post-apocalyptic dystopia) and their encounters at Xandarr that ventured into the surreal.

This one was a big thumbs up for me. More like this one please.

I was happy to hear that Ren has now released an Omnibus collection. This is a great way of getting three of his books in one: The Dead Held Hands, The Machine, and The Temple of the Exploding Head, books that follow the adventures of Lord Kabyl, the lovely Sam and their companions.

His space operas, with their mixture of sci-fi, steampunk and strange, dark magic, maintain the high adventure flavour of old cliffhangers.  When you read them, you can count on masterful world-building, diverse characters and moving story lines. I enjoyed these books immensely individually, so its a great opportunity to be able to get them as a set.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Word: Mentralysis

December 15, 2017 at 1:44 am (dark fantasy, horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , )

Review – House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis – by Ren Garcia

I’m a true fan of Ren Garcia and I’ve read all of his books to date (well, I’m working on Kat now.) Mentralysis started in a very puzzling way. I was very intrigued to see where it was going. Ar first it seemed similar in some aspects to his other books, but off in a way, straying from some anticipated norms.
Then it took a turn to a place darker than any of the others and I found that more than a little disturbing. I thought: “This book is nasty! Nasty, nasty, nasty! I love it….”
Understand, this is coming from an avid reader of all speculative fiction, who especially loves both horror and fantasy. I found the storyline of this book the most creative and original of all Ren’s books, and considering he’s a master world-builder, that’s saying a lot.

In addition to an edgy and moving storyline, the new characters were delightful and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed Laika, a Haitathe – quite a force to be reckoned with and one of the pivotal components of the story. Ren also turns some of the pre-existing characters on their heads (with a well-thought out explanation, of course.)

He presents his heroes with conniving villains who provide some exceptional challenges. They offer up equally exceptional resolutions in return.

If you are looking for some genre-bending, speculative fiction with a fresh approach to a great story, this book’s for you.

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Let’s Blitz Again – Review Edition

October 20, 2016 at 1:52 am (fantasy, horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

screenshot-2016-10-19-at-10-48-31-pm-editedTwo more submissions have been sent to magazine markets, both new to me.  They are both stories I’ve only submitted once or twice before, so I’m still not sure how they’ll be received.

At the same time, I received an e-mail regarding the upcoming release for one of my two acceptances this blitz.  I should have more details to share here soon, when we get closer to the print release.

Since I finished the story I was working on yesterday, I decided to work today on a review of a book I just finished reading.  Here are my thoughts:

Review – Ren Garcia’s The House of Bloodstein

I’ve always enjoyed Ren’s space opera books for their high adventure and detailed world building, with added elements of fantasy and steampunk, quite dark in some places thanks to shadowtech.  But this new addition to his series leans even more into my favourite genre, horror, which made the read more enjoyable for me.  This particular novel continues the story of his second generation of characters – the first generation appearing in the original League of Elders series.  Kay, Sam, Phillip, and Sarah are offered the opportunity to participate in a game, not as players, but as collectors of some highly sought after game pieces.  There is a twist to the invitation that inevitably leads into dangerous terrain, facing off with dastardly villains, a crazy gun-toting revenant and space zombies far scarier than your average zombie fare.  Joined by King, an artifact creature crafted to assist and defend them and Thomasina/Rose, Phillip’s romantic interest, the characters encounter everything thrown at them with their usual bold flair, making for a wild ride with some incredible fight scenes.  Overall it was a wonderfully fun read.

My only advice is that this book wouldn’t read very well as a stand-alone novel, so if you haven’t read the rest of Ren’s series – start at the beginning and work your way up to this.  His series is definitely one of my favourites.

Time to start a new story – more from my blitz later.

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October Submission Blitz 2015 – Success

October 12, 2015 at 5:03 pm (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Day 12 of my blitz and 12 submissions complete, several of them to pro-rate venues.  The good news is that I’ve already received two responses and both of them were acceptances.  I’ll post the details when I’m free to share them.

My scary little girl of the day is a classic C – Carrie.  Stephen King’s start as the King of Horror began  with a teenage disaster who found supernatural powers to go with her adolescent angst when she reached puberty.  Throw in a crazy zealot of a mother, school bullies and a bucket of pig’s blood and say hello to a freak out of epic proportions.

And for a bonus today, a review.  Here’s one for Ren Garcia’s Stenibelle:

With this installment Ren Garcia’s Shadow Tech Goddess series, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It had all of the wonderful world crafting and characterizations typical of his writing, but with its female protagonist/PoV, I was a little wary about how I would connect with the story.

I like to see stories that give female characters plenty of agency, especially adventure stories, and that’s difficult in the Victorian-esque patriarchal social-settings common to Garcia’s League of Elders series. It allows for dashing male heroes wielding great power and charm, but the female characters before this novel ,have been either demure, villainous, or struggling to control and wield what power they have – bordering on insane, damaged by their power or seeking isolation at the expense of their relationships.

In this vein, Stenibelle is at a disadvantage compared to her male counterparts right from the start. She starts at a major low and swings out far in the other direction to the point of arrogance and aggression, and I found myself hoping there would be some balance to come. Despite my frustration with her situation and her behaviour, the story was still very enjoyable.

At first Stenibelle didn’t have her own agency – “lesser” than her male counterparts – and she had to have an extra hand up. Considering her social setting, however, there was no way of avoiding some disadvantage because of her gender. My discomfort at her struggles is a compliment to the author’s storytelling skills – I wouldn’t have felt frustrated in the face of her circumstances if I hadn’t been so invested in the characters and the storyline.

There are other examples of empowered female characters in the story. Gwen was very strong in this book, despite getting beaten in a physical fight. Stenibelle was using unfair tactics to win and Gwen took the loss graciously without being cowed by it.

Alesta is also empowered, and my favourite character in the book. She works outside the boundaries of society because of her spiritual beliefs. She does what she feels is right and sometimes that meant being assertive. She’s quite powerful even though she is humble about it and doesn’t resort to throwing that power around carelessly.

Stenibelle, or Bel, does undergo growth of character. With the help of her friends, Bel, finds her agency and owns who she is. As Bel’s confidence grows it changes her dynamic with other characters, such as the bullying, villainous Professor Shurlamp. Shurlamp then has less power over her.

I really liked the changes that happen at this point in the book. Bel had to shake free the shackles of societal expectations and the unwarranted doubt it had created within her. Then she assumes responsibility for her fate directing the outcome of her adventure. In the end, I thought that this was one of Ren Garcia’s best stories yet. I look forward to the next one in this series.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Ren Once Again

May 7, 2013 at 12:00 am (fantasy, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , )

Against the Druries: The Belmont Saga (Volume 2) by Ren Garcia

If Ren Garcia writes it, I’ll be reviewing it. He never fails to impress me with his world-building skills, original plotlines and interesting characters. Despite the fact that his writing ventures into genres I don’t usually enjoy reading, like steampunk and science fiction, his work always manages to entertain me.

Against the Druries is the second in The Belmont Saga – Seventh in his League of Elder series – and I found it as equally satisfying as the book preceding it. I’m not going to go into any great plot detail as a lot of what happens in this book would be considered spoilers for the first book, but I will touch on some of the highlights.

One of the first things I liked about this saga was that aside from the protagonist, who is the larger-than-life classic hero typical to Ren’s stories, the majority of the other characters in the book are the type of flawed individuals who appeal to my sensibilities. I was especially drawn to A-Ram, the true underdog sort with something to prove, not just for himself but on behalf of his family. The rough-edged Tarra also made for some necessary comic-relief during very tense times.

While Ren’s not afraid to offer up the darker side of things, this book seemed particularly dark. I prefer my reads grim and messy (not the writing, but the storyline,) so this aspect made me happy. It also leaves us with some rather frightening prospects for stories to come.

The most surprising part of the book was the villains and the revelation of their true nature. They certainly aren’t what they seem to be at first, providing an even greater threat to our heroes and their objectives than first anticipated.

In all, this was an intense, shadowy adventure, filled with intrigue, excitement and extreme ups and down – an edgy joyride. Definitely five stars from me.

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Genre for the Holidays – Procrastination

December 30, 2012 at 1:13 am (writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I have to confess, I’ve been using the holidays and housecleaning as excuses to procrastinate, something I don’t normally do. The work involved in the few things I do have to do right now with regards to my writing doesn’t thrill me, so I’ve put all of them off. I figure if I’m going to do them, I better make a list and if I don’t make a note of getting work done on them over the next few days, you all have the right to chastise me, berate me, slap my wrists … I’d even say spank me, but the hubby would object to that one. Anyway, here are the things on my writing to-do list. Maybe if I have them written somewhere public, it will shame me into getting my tushy in gear.

1) Write a story for Ren Garcia’s anthology – why have I been putting this off? Nerves. I don’t typically write this type of speculative fiction and I’ll be writing to Ren’s world, fan-fiction of sorts. I know I can’t come anywhere near matching Ren quality-wise and I honestly don’t have a story idea at this point. I need a little push with this one.

2) Submissions – I have two short story submissions I’ve been putting off. It won’t take long, but it feels so much like work and I haven’t been enthusiastic about submissions lately. I don’t know why – I’ve had some success lately so you’d think I’d be gung-ho, but I’m not.

3) Rewrite – I have a story ending to rewrite at an editor’s request. I’m scared to even start, despite having a few ideas on how I could change it. I guess I’m just worried I won’t be able to improve it and I’m waiting for that “zen” moment when the words just flow like magic.

4) Formatting – I have to format The Blood Runs Deep so I can get this second book in my Snowy Barrens trilogy out there. I was using the lack of cover art as an excuse, but I’m almost done with my attempt. It is nowhere near as good as Dianne’s work on the first cover, but it is a really good piece for my efforts and I think it will be acceptable. I just need a good kick in the pants to get started.

So there you have it, in order of importance based on deadlines, simplicity and necessity. And I’ll get to them, eventually, once I conquer this severe case of procrastination.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Ren Garcia Returns

October 15, 2012 at 10:26 pm (fantasy, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , )

Sands of the Solar Empire – by Ren Garcia

I don’t think Ren Garcia will ever write anything I don’t like. I’m a big fan. But I felt like he was toying with me a little with this book. The reader is provided with a great space fantasy adventure, with plenty of dead-ends for our heroes and seemingly impossible situations (at first). It is a fun, quirky, fast-paced tale with his typical larger-than-life heroic characters. And then…

Before I continue, I’ll have to tell you, I have a very linear brain. I like stories, unless they involve time-travel, to follow a definitive path. Any criticism I have about the non-linear qualities of this story are no commentary on the quality of this book – it is a wonderful read – but rather on my peculiar preferences. I still loved this book, but it drove me crazy reading it.

The story jumps back to events preceding the front-end action, following Belmont (or Bel as his friends call him), our hero, right back to the time prior to his birth. His adventures are thrilling. He’s a very sexy character with womanizing ways and a highly unusual family. Description of his household, his sisters, his encounters with demons and the ladies he interacts with are colourful and vividly detailed. The plot is just as intricate as his earlier novels and his world-building just as sublime.

As much as I liked this “reminiscing”, the opening storyline niggled at the back of my brain, a constant distraction while I followed the rest of the book. I wanted to know what happened to the folks he had left in the lurch, to the point where I was practically chewing my nails down to the nubs out of the frustration of having to wait.

It was worth the wait, but in the end I was left with enough loose ends that now I’m going to have to deal with more waiting for the next book. Nevertheless, I’d definitely recommend picking up this book, another addition to a fantastic series.

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