Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Giveaway - Enter to win a free copy of The Black Swans

Win a copy of The Black Swans! 
See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: The Black Swans: A Tale of the Antrim Cycle. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Jan 6, 2016 11:59 PM PST, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules

Free Giveway - Enter Here!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Trad Tuesday - Skibbereen by the Wolfe Tones

Skibbereen, also known as Dear Old Skibbereen, 'Farewell to Skibbereen', or 'Revenge For Skibbereen', is an Irish folk song, in the form of a dialogue wherein a father tells his son about the Great Hunger (Án Gorta Mór), being evicted from their home, and the need to flee as a result of the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848.

The Wolfe Tones are an Irish rebel band that take their name from Irish patriot of the 1798 rebellion, Theobald Wolfe Tone

(Patrick Carpenter)
O, Father dear, I oft times heard you talk of Erin's Isle
Her valleys green, her lofty scene, her mountains rude and wild
You said it was a pleasant place wherein a prince might dwell
Why have you then forsaken her, the reason to me tell?
My son, I loved our native land with energy and pride
Until a blight fell on the land and sheep and cattle died
The rents and taxes were to pay, I could not them redeem
And that's the cruel reason why I left Old Skibbereen
It's well I do remember on a bleak November's day
The landlord and his agent came to drive us all away
He set my house on fire with his demon yellow spleen
And that's another reason why I left Old Skibbereen
Your mother, too, God rest her soul, lay on the snowy ground
She fainted in her anguish of the desolation round
She never rose, but went her way from life to death's long dream
And found a quiet grave, my boy, in lovely Skibbereen
It's well I do remember the year of forty-eight
When we arose with Erin's boys to fight against our fate
I was hunted through the mountains as a traitor to the Queen
And that's another reason that I left Old Skibbereen
Oh father dear, the day will come when vengeance loud will call
And we'll arise with Erin's boys and rally one and all
I'll be the man to lead the van, beneath our flag of green
And loud and high we'll raise the cry, "Revenge for Skibbereen!"

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Review: Last Dance by Maria Grace and Half Agony, Half Hope also by Maria Grace

Last Dance smallThis was a sweet novella about the middle Bennet sister, Mary, in a Pride and Prejudice reimagining. Mary was the quiet studious daughter. Her two oldest sisters are married as is the youngest. Her parents have taken Kitty off to London to find her a husband, but Mary stays in Meryton with Aunt Philips who is determined to find Mary a husband also.
Enter two cousins: Mr. Lacey, a gentleman farmer and a catch and lame Mr. Parris who will be clerking for Uncle Phillips. Both seem interested in Mary who prefers the more frivolous Mr. Lacey until she spends some quality time with Mr. Parris. All's well that ends well.

Link to Amazon

I also read Half Agony, Half Hope, another novella which is a retelling of Persuasion. I enjoyed it, but it was pretty much just a retelling of the original story. But I love Austen reimaginings and will be reading more from this author.

This is free on the author's website.

Random Bits of Fascination

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book Review: The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar

I read and review a lot of Indie authors on this blog, but I also read a lot of traditionally published authors as well. I also reread my favorite books, both classics and just best-loved. On Christmas Day, I picked up my copy of The Good Fairies of New York in order to reread a book that always makes me chortle, giggle, and sometimes laugh out loud.
The copy I have now has an introduction by Neil Gaiman. I will quote from him to give you an idea of what the book is about:
The Good Fairies of New York is a story that starts when Morag and Heather, two eighteen-inch fairies with swords and green kilts and badly-dyed hair fly through the window of the worst violinist in New York, an overweight and antisocial type named Dinnie, and vomit on his carpet. Who they are, and how then came to New York, and what this has to do with the lovely Kerry, who lives across the street, and who has Crohn's Disease and is making a flower alphabet, and what this has to do with the other fairies (of all nationalities) of New York, not to mention the poor repressed fairies of Britain, is the subject of this book. It has a war in it, and a most unusual production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Johnny Thunders' New York Dolls guitar solos. What more could anyone desire from a book?
This book originally came out in the early nineties and my original copy did not have the introduction from Mr. Gaimen. Martin Millar is well-known in Britain both for his Lonely Werewolf series and for the Thraxas series (under the name Martin Scott). For some reason, he is not as well known in the States and that is a shame because he belongs in the respected author grouping of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Neil Gaiman. Maybe it's his covers, I don't know, but Martin Millar has a style all his own. Some people don't like it, but the rest love it. There seems to be no middle ground here.
There are a lot of Celtic stories and music here as well as musical references to early punk rock. The New York street scene is well-drawn as well as the Scottish countryside and people.
Here is the opening of the book to give you an idea:
Dinnie, an overweight enemy of humanity, was the worst violinist in New York, but was practicing gamely when two cute little fairies stumbled through his fourth-floor window and vomited on the carpet.
"Sorry," said one.
"Don't worry," said the other. "Fairy vomit is no doubt sweet-smelling to humans."
I highly recommend this (and all) of his books. This one is a quick read; trust me, it will make you laugh.

Link to Amazon

Friday, December 25, 2015

Book Review: Everealm by J. D. Wright

I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley for an honest review.
Bree is a princess in Everealm. She has been in love with Rowan since she was fourteen years old. Unfortunately, he is not considered suitable and the fact that they went a little too far at one point means that he has been sent away to work as an assassin. When her father dies, Bree becomes Queen and there is the somewhat predictable story where Bree, Rowan, Dagan the wizard and others have to fight to save the kingdom from Bree's wicked uncle Silas and his wife.
The cover is lovely; that and the style of writing led me to believe that this was a YA fairy tale story. The book needs an editor (in my opinion). There is head-hopping between characters and a lot of poor phrasing that takes the reader out of the story. For example, "he certainly preferred her in red or deep green to match her eyes" made me wonder about the color of her eyes. Another example, "her body had rubbed against his groin, making it hard to concentrate on where he was leading his horse. And he was forced to rearrange his trousers to cover up his excitement caused by it". Was he excited by leading his horse or her body? There are a lot of sentences like this that just were not clear and stops the reader in order to try to understand what the author is saying. I can forgive a few instances of this, but there were too many throughout the entire book. I think an editor would have corrected this and made the book much better.
And this brings me to my second issue. This is definitely not a YA book. There are explicit sexual scenes of rape and violence. I don't particularly care if there is sex in a book, but here they are inserted somewhat gratuitously and I found them jarring. I don't think they were necessary and again they take the reader out of the story.
This book was a disappointment and I would not recommend it.

Link to Amazon

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book Review: The Machine by E.C. Jarvis

Larissa Markus is an ordinary shop girl living a somewhat dreary life in her steampunk era city. When the Professor, a rich and handsome older man, approaches her, she is flattered and falls for his attentions. What he really wants is her Anthonium necklace since he needs the rare stone to power his machine. Things don't work out the way he plans, though. The machine blows up, the Professor is kidnapped, and Larissa is left with Cid, the Professor's assistant to try and clear things up.
What follows is a rollicking adventure as Larissa assembles a motley crew to assist her in her quest. The story reminded me a little of The Princess Bride by William Goldman, only Larissa is no Buttercup. She is the Wesley of this tale. Besides Cid, she has her cat, Imago, the mysterious Holt, and a pirate crew to help her find and free the Professor.
I cannot tell you how much I loved this book. I intend to gush here. I read a lot of books and this one is just terrific, one of my very favorites from the past year. The pace is fast; the book really is a page-turner. I both wanted to find out what happens next, yet I savored every word of the story and did not want it to end. The characters are well-realized and Larissa's growth throughout the book worked in  a very believable manner. The love triangle between Larissa, the Professor, and Holt also works (I won't give it away, but I liked the way Larissa deals with it). There are some scenes of violence because the villain here named Doctor Orother is sadistically evil.
The ending is satisfactory (not a cliffhanger) and I'm happy that this is apparently going to be a trilogy. I will be able to spend more time with these wonderful characters. E.C. Jarvis has done a great job with this story and I look forward to more from her. I most heartily recommend this book - you will not be disappointed. Oh, and don't forget there are pirates!

Link to Amazon

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday Release for the Antrim Cycle

A new Holiday Short Story FREE!

Nola McLaren and Owen Campell are ready to celebrate their first real Winter Solstice together along with other friends and family in the small town of Antrim, Maine. An old Celtic legend will be the foundation for a big surprise for Owen.

Trad Tuesday: Snow by Loreena McKennitt

Snow is a poem by Canadian poet Archibald Lampman. He died in 1899 and was described as the "Canadian Keats". He was of the school of "nature poets".

Loreena McKennitt is an Canadian new age singer noted for her dreamy Celtic melodies. She often sets poems to music and this is a fine example for the holiday season.
White are the far-off plains, and white
The fading forests grow;
The wind dies out along the height,
And denser still the snow,
A gathering weight on roof and tree,
Falls down scarce audibly.

The road before me smooths and fills
Apace, and all about
The fences dwindle, and the hills
Are blotted slowly out;
The naked trees loom spectrally
Into the dim white sky.

The meadows and far-sheeted streams
Lie still without a sound;
Like some soft minister of dreams
The snow-fall hoods me round;
In wood and water, earth and air,
A silence everywhere.

Save when at lonely intervals
Some farmer's sleigh, urged on,
With rustling runners and sharp bells,
Swings by me and is gone;
Or from the empty waste I hear
A sound remote and clear;

The barking of a dog, or call
To cattle, sharply pealed,
Borne echoing from some wayside stall
Or barnyard far a-field;
Then all is silent, and the snow
Falls, settling soft and slow.

The evening deepens, and the gray
Folds closer earth and sky;
The world seems shrouded far away;
Its noises sleep, and I,
As secret as yon buried stream,
Plod dumbly on, and dream.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Book Review: An Unexpected Death by M.E. Maki

Caitlyn is a graphic designer with a successful business in Washington, DC, but she travels to a small town in the Catskills when her cousin Todd is murdered. Todd is a nice high school boy, popular and a good athlete with an interest in the environment. Caitlyn wants to help with the investigation, especially after she meets Ethan, the Sheriff. She has a boyfriend, but it doesn't seem very serious and part of the book explores her deciding on their relationship. Ethan has his own entanglements that no one suspects.
Together they investigate Todd's murder which becomes increasingly complicated with all sorts of environment issues such as fracking and a plethora of suspects. I don't want to give too much away, but this is a rip-snorting ride of a mystery with a lot of twists before it is solved. I especially liked the neighbor farming family who came from the South and are mixed up with herbal folklore, but there are a lot of great characters. I hope to meet them all again in the next book.
I heartily recommend this book and enjoyed it immensely.

Link to Amazon

Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Review: The Adventures of Alexis Davenport by Shay West

I won these three books in an author giveaway. Alexis Davenport is an unhappy teenager. Her parents are getting divorced and her mother is moving her away from all her friends to start freshman year in high school. She's a smart girl who loves history and the books show her trek through her high school years, the new friends that she makes, the football jock that she has a crush on, and the typical fights with her mother that most teenagers go through.
On the other hand, Alexis is not a typical teenager. She is a time traveller who has the mysterious power to travel back through time to prevent an evil traveller named Drifter from changing the course of history. At times it it dangerous for her and she learns a lot from the bodies and minds of the women that she takes over.
This is a great YA series. I loved the bits of history strewn into the story and learned some new facts myself. Alexis, or Alex, grows up quite a lot over the course of the series and is always interesting. I highly recommend these books to teenagers who like fantasy and good reads.

Link to Amazon

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Trad Tuesday - My Heart's in the Highlands sung by the Barra MacNeils

My Heart's in the Highlands is a song by Robert Burns from 1789 and sung to the tune Failte na Miosg.

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow,
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

The Barra MacNeils are a Canadian group from Nova Scotia consisting of several siblings. The Isle of Barra is the clan home for the MacNeils.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Book Review: Unhidden by Dina M. Given

Unhidden is the first book in The Gatekeeper Chronicle. Emma is a mercenary who hires out for special jobs with a team of two others, Jason and Daniel (the computer nerd). She is captured by a nefarious figure who attempts a strange sacrifice ritual on her before she is rescued. After that, all sorts of paranormal characters start appearing. There is a lot of action and fighting, too much in my opinion. It takes away from the character interactions. For example, Emma is a cold fish, but she will sacrifice for Jason and Daniel. I'm never sure why except that they were her team; Jason was a short term affair and Daniel is a nice kid she took under her wing while in the foster care system. She seems to mow down hundreds of men and creatures to save these two, but I'm never sure why as she's pretty callous otherwise.
The same thing with the romantic triangle (I'm not even sure it was a triangle). Zane is a mage from her past life, but spends most of his brief appearances trying to kill her. Alex also hates her, but then maybe becomes another love interest.
I'm not sure if the problem was that the author was waiting for the next book to straighten some of this out, but I felt that the story was often disjointed. It has an interesting premise, but I'm not sure I'll bother to continue the series.
I received this book free from NetGalley for an honest review.

Link to Amazon

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review: Spiral of Need by Suzanne Wright

Spiral of Need is a paranormal werewolf romance. Ally has been alienated from her pack because of a jealous mate of her ex. Dereen brings her to his own pack because of a favor he owes to her brother (well, he grew up with her and his family adopted her).
There are predictable crises with the jealous mate on Ally's side and another jealous woman on Dereen's side. Plus another jealous woman who is trying to wipe out her new pack. Every other chapter is another sexual encounter for no particular reason that I could see except to lengthen the story.
I like paranormal, but this one was not for me. I was given this book as an ARC by the publisher for an honest review.

Link to Amazon

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

IndieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop

Today is my day for the IndieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop and I'm very excited about it. It has been a wonderful trip through the blogs so far, full of interesting stories. I am very proud that my book, The Black Swans, was awarded an IndieBRAG Medallion. The Black Swans is based on the Irish story of The Children of Lir, so I thought it apropos to talk about some of the Celtic customs that the Irish celebrate at Christmas time.

In many parts of Ireland barns and outbuildings are still whitewashed, a holdover from older times when buildings were cleaned to purify them to welcome the coming savior. Houses were decorated with holly and ivy. You wanted to find a holly bush that contained many berries as that signified good luck in the coming year. 

Christmas decorations are kept up until January 6th, or Little Women's Christmas. On this day women can leave their housekeeping and go out with each other to have fun. This is still celebrated especially in the Western part of Ireland.

Many families leave a candle in the window to welcome the Holy Family. They might also leave a mince pie and a Guinness out on Christmas Eve for Santa instead of the milk and cookies that we leave for him.

The Winter Solstice is also an important day in Ireland. December 21st is the day that the Oak King of summer must battle his twin, the Holly King. The Holly King always wins the battle and rules until the Summer Solstice. The Holly King was a giver of gifts, helping people to live through the harsh winter months, and is one of the earliest incarnations of Santa Claus.

Tuesdays on this blog are also known as Traditional Tuesday where I showcase a traditional Celtic song. Today I picked The Wexford Carol sung by Irish singer Loreena McKennitt.

The Wexford Carol is a traditional Irish Christmas carol. It is also known as 'The Enniscorthy Carol' and 'Carul Loch Garman'. The tune goes back to the 12th century though the lyrics are newer. 

The Wexford Carol - Lyrics
Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born

The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town
But mark right well what came to pass
From every door repelled, alas
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox's stall

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God's angel did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Arise and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you'll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born

With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God's angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife

There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

The next stop on the indieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop is tomorrow, December 9 with Cheri Gillard, so be sure to hop along and see what Cheri has in store for you.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Book Review: Darkness of Man (The Edge of Reflection book 1) by C.C. Genovese

Darkness of Man is based on an interesting premise. When a human finally has a truly dark urge for violence, the urge creates an image copy of the person in a mirror world. Occasionally, the two worlds meet when the person views his image and each is transported to the other's world.
Gabe finds out that Allie, his girlfriend, is creating on him with his boss. The desire to do her violence transports him through the mirror and allows Cutter, his image, to escape that dark world and wreak havoc in the 'real' world.  Meanwhile, Lisa, Gabe's shy friend at the office, has her own transfer with Ivy, her alter ego. Lisa has always had a crush on Gabe, but it isn't until they're locked in this dark world together and struggling to return to their real world that Gabe realizes Lisa's worth.
Gabe's arrival has been foreordained as the Haissem and he gathers a crew of interesting people and images to support him in his quest. I enjoyed these side characters almost as much as the main characters. Nothing is black or white and even the worst characters have good points. There are also many dangers in this alternate world which move the story right along.
This was an interesting concept and way to visualize the struggle between good and evil. The writing is good, but be warned: the story is raw with both graphic sex and violence. It is an engrossing read, dark fantasy at its finest. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Link to Amazon

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Trad Tuesday - Sweet Bells sung by Kate Rusby

Kate Rusby is an English folksinger from Yorkshire and her Christmas album reflects her origins. Sweet Bells is also the title of her album.