Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Reader's Review: "Queen of Diamonds" by Patricia Loofbourrow


Synopsis from Amazon:
She just wanted an easy case ...
Private eye Jacqueline Spadros, recovering from her harrowing experiences the week prior, wants nothing more than a simple, straightforward case - preferably one the Spadros Family won't find out about. Aristocratic jewel merchant Dame Anastasia Louis, aka "The Queen of Diamonds," seems to be offering the perfect arrangement. 
But Jacqui can't leave the madman "Black Jack" Diamond's crimes unpunished. And the more she learns, the more she begins to believe that this particular job wasn't such a good idea after all ....
Dark, gritty, multi-layered Victorian-inspired detective neo-noir that keeps the reader guessing to the very end.
>>>>>>>>>

My Review:

Holy moly! The plot thickens, and it is GLORIOUS!

Loofbourrow teases out clues and plot twists in a novel replete with Victorian graces and social norms--everything through the eyes of a societal "outcast" married into the ruling family, so she is just as much learning about the expectations that come with being a gentrified lady as we are.

The continuity is amazing. It's been quite a while since I read JACQ OF SPADES, but as the action picks up right where the last one left off, I feel as if no time has passed--I've only somehow forgotten the odd detail here and there! But even that wasn't a huge issue, as the story sucked me right back in anyway!
Jacqui is trying not to cross her husband or step on any toes--the numerous run-ins with Roy in the first book have her good and scared... but also, she's realizing that all Tony needs is a bit of a push and he can be a different man from his father, though they are of the same blood. She's doing her best to stay on Tony's good side and maintain his trust--but the secret activities and investigations she's trying to follow are rapidly spiraling out of control!

I deeply admire the way Loofbourrow sets up her mystery. We get to know the characters on a deeper, more personal level. They’re not just names for different archetypes in a play; they are real people, swept into real conflict. I still can’t figure out who the Red Dog conspirators are, nor why they are killing certain people just when Jacqui gets close to having the information she needs. I am in awe at the depth, breadth, and complexity of all her characters: the titular “Queen of Diamonds” who isn’t at all what she seems; the Kerr siblings, who have been close friends with Jacqui, yet there are still secrets held between them; even the enigmatic Blaze Rainbow has more and more about him that he has kept to himself. Even Jacqui grows and deepens in her character and personality.

The magic continues, and the quality never lags. QUEEN OF DIAMONDS is a stellar, thrilling mystery, definitely worth a *****5 STAR***** rating, and an Upstream Writer Certified HEARTILY Recommended endorsement. If you like gritty, noir steampunk with dynamic, realistic characters, and don’t mind some suggestive scenes or intense peril—then The Red Dog Conspiracy is a jewel of a series!

Further Reading: (Steampunk/Strong Heroine/Compelling Plot/Mystery)
The Red Dog Conspiracy--Patricia Loofbourrow (*Same series as featured book)
       -The Alcatraz Coup 
       -Jacq of Spades 

The Jill Andersen Series--J. D. Cunegan
       -Bounty 
       -Blood Ties 
       -Behind the Badge 

Punk Anthologies--Writerpunk Press Group
      -Sound & Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 1 
      -Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 2: Once More Unto The Breach 
      -What We've Unlearned: Classic Literature Goes Punk
Dawn of Steam Trilogy--Jeffrey Cook
      -First Light
      -Gods of The Sun 
      -Rising Suns 

-Sky Knight--Sandra Harvey 
-AmsterDamned--Nils Visser

The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey 
       -The Way 
       -The Truth 
       -The Lie 

The Goode-Grace Mysteries--Cyn Mackley
       
-American Goth

The Runespells Series--Sarah Buhrman
       -Too Wyrd

Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland 
     -Dance Into The Wyrd

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Reader's Review: "The Tannis Project" by Daryl J. Ball


Synopsis from Amazon:

Being a nearly 200-year-old vampire comes with a lot of experience...and a lot of baggage.

In his weekly blog, Tannis reflects on the experiences and people that have shaped his life, as well as his budding romance with single mother, Kayla. Adaptation ensures survival but offers little insight on falling in love with a human. Kayla accepts him and his struggles, but can he do the same? Her teenage son, Tie, is a challenge all on his own. He may not be ready for a new father, especially one who's a vampire.

For the first time in his life, Tannis struggles to adapt. Do the rewards outweigh the risks? Having his own family seems like a dream come true, but dreams can just as easily become nightmares.

>>>>>>>>

My Review:


I'll admit... I'm not usually keen on books where the protagonist is a vampire. Typically in the books I read, vampires are portrayed as monsters or twisted villains. Most of the books that feature vampires in a sympathetic light take the idea all the way into "romantic entanglement" territory, which sends me screaming for the hills more often than not. They're hot, they sparkle, they make fools of all humans they encounter, resistance is futile... blah blah blah!!

But Tannis?
Tannis doesn't sparkle.
Tannis isn't "eternally seventeen."
Tannis doesn't make a big deal about revealing all the deepest, darkest secrets of his identity to the whole world. (But he is quite willing to expose the vulnerabilities of lycanthropes!)
Tannis writes a blog.

The character presents (with the help of the amazing cover image!) as a sage old man desirous of setting the record straight about people's understanding of vampires. The way he puts it, vampires are just another cryptid, capable of many superhuman feats through earnest and reasonable scientific and medical anomalies that are simple and sensible enough to forestall one's disbelief, given that the entire lore is just centuries of make-believe.
Reading THE TANNIS PROJECT brought back everything that I loved about the show Grimm. Being in the format of a blog, the story was neither sensational, nor the action particularly gripping--but the wealth of information Tannis provides to his readers is definitely compelling, in an intellectual sort of way. The fact that Ball successfully pulls off "guest posts" from other characters and makes them sound different not only from Tannis himself, but from each other is another stroke in the book's favor. I found it fascinating and (dare I say) comfortable by turns. The different social connections among the vampire Houses and the lycanthrope packs got confusing, especially in the parts where few names were used... but I managed to make it through. I especially enjoyed the clear explanations of the more mundane features and habits of the vampires, and the touches of realism Ball adds as certain dates over the course of the blog coincide with some real-world tragedies that Tannis chooses to remark upon.


On the whole, I'd give this book a solid *****4.5 STAR***** rating. I quite enjoyed the quality writing, the patient, scholarly candor, and the way Ball brought each character to life in his and her own unique way. There wasn't any page-gripping peril (because the blog posts were pretty much all in retrospect... obviously they survived whatever situation they are describing!) or intense action sequences--but there were plenty of vivid emotions, fascinating twists, and intriguing information to beguile any reader! If you enjoy classic vampire lore, a quiet evening by the fireside, melded with family dynamics, trust issues, and a character with two centuries of emotional maturity under his belt, then you should definitely give THE TANNIS PROJECT a try! I know I'm definitely looking forward to the next Daryl J. Ball novel on my TBR list!

Further Reading: (Vampires/Supernatural/Paranormal/Quality Writing/Excellent Lore)

The Firebird Fairy Tales--Amy Kuivalainen
       -The Cry of the Firebird 
       -Ashes of the Firebird 
The Portal Prophecies--C. A. King
     -A Keeper's Destiny 
     -A Halloween's Curse

The Books of Winter--R. R. Virdi
       -Dangerous Ways 
-Sanctuary--Pauline Creeden
-Tomoiya's Story: Escape to Darkness--C. A. King 
-Beasts of Babylon--E. A. Copen
-Charon, Unguarded--A. H. Johnstone 
The Runespells Series--Sarah Buhrman
       -Too Wyrd 
Stories of Togas, Daggers And Magic--Assaph Mehr
       -Murder in Absentia 
The Grave Reports--R. R. Virdi
        -Grave Beginnings 
        -Grave Measures

         -Grave Dealings  
Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden--James Osiris Baldwin
        -Burn Artist 
        -Blood Hound 

Judah Black Series--E. A. Copen
       -Guilty By Association

The LouisiAngel Series--C. L. Coffey
        -Angel in Training 
        -Angel Eclipsed


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Upstream Update: February Edition!


Yay!! It's 2019 and I am continuing the regular updates! About once a month, like I was doing before, I will go over where I'm at with the various projects I'm working on, letting you know what's going on... I welcome feedback and comments on anything, feel free to ask your questions in the comments--let's GO!!

The Last Inkweaver

Oh jeepers! I never thought I'd get here! Closing in on 140K words (most of which are probably unnecessary, don't freak out!) and I've only just arrived in "Moon Valley"! It was trippy, the way I wrote it the first time around--but that was because I didn't quite know what I was doing. This time, not only do I have a better handle on the circumstances, but they have new meaning and purpose, thus I am able to evaluate things based on that meaning and purpose, and those things that don't have anything to do with furthering that goal are so much easier to just eliminate! Hopefully that will make it significantly less trippy, and more cool and mind-bending, which is what I want. "Moon Valley" has some huge moments in it... It's where Callista gets a small glimpse into what might happen if a Wordspinner "goes bad"... i.e., starts using the storytelling ability for their own ends, instead of allowing the story to speak to the hearer... That's the idea, anyway! The thing is, my first time writing this sequence of scenes is what gave me the idea for a longer story arc, so a lot of what she encounters here will be dealt with in more focus in the next book--so there will be some questions left unanswered, for sure! But it's all in good fun, and I am nearly to the end!


Red, The Wolf

Okay, so I shared a story excerpt from this, and I talked about it in the birthday post... But, such is the writer's life, that the first draft isn't necessarily going to be the one you end up sticking with the whole way through. 
The thing I realized is that, loquacious as it is, that initial opening takes too long and adds too many superfluous details (a regular problem of mine...) to be actually useful, and to segue into the part that I really wanted to write. After two more (failed!) attempts, I finally turned to the group and asked for opinions--and the advice I got worked so well, it helped me figure out the best way to string everything together, and I think I've got it now! This is so exciting! I can't wait for you all to read it!


Anthology Submission News: "Serenity's Light" ACCEPTED!

Those who have been with me for a couple years might remember the epic "Year Of The Thousand Word Suggestion Box." Beginning in the summer of 2015 and stretching all the way into 2016, I embarked on an epic quest to start my Suggestion Box posts not with just random lists, but actual images I could then use for the thumbnails of my posts. There at the beginning, I couldn't decide between doing each post separately, as I had in 2013, or stringing them all together into a plot, as I did in 2014... So I ended up doing both! I managed to garner enough participation to be able to maintain a mixture of single posts, punctuated with installments of a continuous story, called "Serenity's Light." Well, it just so happens that the story fit the theme of an anthology releasing this spring, so you'll actually get to read it as a self-contained story, in print! And only you, my lovely followers, will know that it came from a random assortment of lists from totally unrelated people... and if that's not an awesome way to write a story, I don't know what is!

Wattpad Updates: NEW Story!

As if 30 stories wasn't enough... Just last week I started posting yet another story! Those of you following my blog back in 2015 might remember in November when I mentioned (and posted a few excerpts of) a random story that I'd drummed up at least a scene for, but never managed to write, called "Clay Heroes." Here's the blurb (and the mock cover I drummed up):

Chad Stevenson is very good at being invisible. Not literally, but in a class full of rowdy, mischievous third-graders, it's easy for him to keep his head down and blend in. Adding to that the fact that his parents are busy with another sibling on the way, and no one seems to pay any attention to the fact that young, imaginative Chad is an easy target for the school bullies--Chad decides to take matters into his own hands, and fashion six heroes out of clay, to rescue him from these difficult circumstances.

Unfortunately, with the heroes comes a villain, and when a miracle happens, Chad finds himself in more trouble than he bargained for--

Who will save him now?

Follow the hyperlinked text above to read the story on Wattpad! I'd forgotten how good the story actually was, even though it was only about half as long as I had hoped it would be for the NaNoWriMo challenge!

Other Serials

In other news, I'm still trying to get back into the swing of finishing the series-in-progress that I've started here. Namely, "ThePrince and The Rose" and "Priscilla Sum." But it's slow going, amid all the other projects I've got going, and all the reading I also would like to do!
I think probably the thing that is holding me up the most about "Priscilla Sum" in particular is that I have to write about her college experience... having never actually gone to a physical college, myself! Yes, I even managed to "homeschool" myself through college, using an accelerated distance program that allowed me to earn the bulk of my college credits through credit-by-exams, and then enrolling online in an affiliate college to complete their requirements for my desired degree. Hence, all the scenes of Priscilla going through her classes and whatnot, and even which buildings she might use for the different subjects, I'm totally making it up, based on what I've heard from my college-attending siblings, and the limited experience I've had going to college campuses to take my exams. That makes it hard, but it's the character and story-building stuff that will make all the rest of the story make sense... so it's necessary! 
(If anyone has any input... particularly if you're familiar with campuses like the University of Chicago, I welcome it!) Hopefully I'll start having more things regularly, since according to the poll I put up on my Facebook page a while back, you all seem to like the pre-written stuff! Stay tuned!

Also, a quick note about A Writer's Tale Series: I know I was trying to get Book 3, "The Sheriff's Showdown" off the ground... but it slowly ground to a halt because I'm in the middle of a conversation between two characters, with not a lot of action--It's still in the process, though, and I hope to have it done eventually! Probably after I get through all the anthology shenanigans I'm pulling off at the moment!


Reading Updates

Yeah, so... Reading has been a little slow, of late. I'm currently dividing my ebook reading between The Tannis Project by Daryl J. Ball, and The Queen of Spades by Patricia Loofbourrow.
The former is like "Interview With a Vampire" for the modern age. A 200-year-old vampire named Tannis patiently and succinctly blogs about his life, answering questions ("or not..." as he repeats at the end of every post) and explaining fallacies and details about living as a vampire with a very congenial demeanor about him. I'll have more to say on it when I actually write the review, but I am immensely intrigued by it, for sure! The latter is, of course, part of the marvelous Red Dog Conspiracy series... I cannot believe I am finally getting to only the second book! So many series... so little time... I had hoped to be tearing through these indie books at a much faster rate than I have been... Do me a favor and keep me motivated, all right? Meanwhile, I have purposed that I cannot spend that Amazon gift card I got for my birthday until I've read the next 10 ebooks on my TBR list; I already know exactly which titles I'm going to buy--I just need to get around to reading the books I already own!

And finally, as far as print books are concerned... Two trips to book sales have yielded a modest stack of books I haven't read, amid the books I have and am pleased to finally own. I figure I am going to hold off visiting the library until I've managed to read through those. Among them is the book I received a while back, that I managed to get halfway through before the onslaught of library checkouts got too much: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks. I'll probably be finishing that one first, and then there's the second book in the MYST series by Rand Miller, The Book of Ti'ana. I rather enjoyed the first book and I was happy to find the second book at the next book sale! After that comes a truly beautiful copy of The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which is a collection of 11 short stories that I have never read in spite of growing up reading The Complete and Unabridged Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Like WHAAAT??? THERE'S MORE?? Totally excited about that. At the recent raid er, acquisition of more books, I found a Michael Crichton book I hadn't read yet, State of Fear, and a few new David Baldacci books such as Last Man Standing. And once I finish these, it will be off to the library for more fun, games, and shenanigans!

So there you have it! A relatively complete run-down of what I'm up to these days... Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions, encouragement, or observations! You'll notice it looks a bit different at the bottom of my posts... With the termination of GooglePlus, I've reverted back to having a more "generic" comment section. Anyone is free to comment! Join the fun! And as always

Catch You Further Upstream!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bookish Blog Hops' VALENTINES HOP: Day 12!


It is a truth universally acknowledged that every writer begins first as a reader. Slightly less-acknowledged (and not at all tested, researched, or proven in any way) is the theory that the more prolific one's writing habits are, the more wide-spread their reading habits. Take it from us avid book-enthusiasts: "Bet You Can't Read Just One!"


Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

Not kidding… Anybody who knows me, or has followed this blog for the last couple years can attest to the fact that it is nearly impossible for me to focus on reading just one book, any more than I am capable of plugging away at only one project! Already in the last month I had 2 library checkouts I was reading, a book on iBooks I was reading on my phone, and a book on my Kindle Fire! I regularly do multiple books--just because I have so many books I want to read, anyway… and sometimes I’m just not in the mood for certain genres, so I would really like a book in a different genre. I sometimes start multiple books, just to see which one captivates me more than the others, and that kind of decides which order I’ll read the stack in. But yes, I’m somebody who doesn’t leave the library with less than 3 books. I’m the same way as a writer, too… I get restless if I have to be focused on one project for too long, and my creativity threatens to stagnate… so to keep it fresh, I have multiple projects in varying genres to poke away at when the mood strikes!


I used to read one book at a time. I couldn’t make myself start another one without finishing my current read. But ever since I started joining book clubs and buddy reading with friends, I learned how to read multiple books at a time. Usually read 3-5 books. It’s because I can’t read the books for buddy reading and Book Club in one sitting since their chapters are divided for scheduled discussions. There’s also Netgalley ARCs which I tend to read little by little so I don’t have to post the review too soon. So right now, I’m currently reading 5 books; 2 YA books for my Book Club, 1 for buddy reading, 1 Netgalley ARC and 1 that I personally love.

Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com




I normally only read one book at once so I can concentrate on the story. If I do ever have multiple books on the go at the same time it’s usually from very different genres e.g. a thriller, and a non fiction.





I tend to have two books going at all times. One audiobook that I listen to while I'm at work and one e-book/paperback that I read in my free time at home. I think having the different formats and a definitive split in the times I listen to/read them helps me keep them separate.


I read one at a time, unless I leave that one at home and I am travelling. Now I always have SEVERAL books checked out on my Kindle. But if it’s a good story, I won’t put it down until it is done, or until my husband comes up and says “It’s 3 am Brandy are you sleeping tonight?” Whichever comes first.

How about you? How many books are on your nightstand/devices just now? Let us know in the comments! 
See below for a complete schedule and links to the other blogs. For more Blog Hops featuring The Upstream Writer, click >HERE<



Day 1: Where is your favourite place to read?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)


Day 2: Which book do you wish had a sequel?
Host: ME! (You Are HERE)

Day 3: Who gave you your love for reading?
Host: Laura Morningstar (http://sawdustandspoons.com)

Day 4: Who’s your book crush?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Day 5: A book you bought for its beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too.
Host: Sarah Nowicki (www.paranormalpeach.com)

Day 6: A popular theme, or trope you will never get bored of reading.
Host: ME again! (You are HERE!)

Day 7: A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counterpart.
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 8: Full on Romance Books Or Action-Packed With A Few Love Scenes? Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 9: Love triangles, yes or no?
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 10: A book with a heart on the cover?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)

Day 11: A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 12: One book at a time or several?
Host: ME again! (*You Are HERE!)

Day 13: An author you would love to interview?
Host: Lili Marcus (https://lilisblissfulpages.wordpress.com/)

Day 14: Last book you recommended to someone?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 15: A fictional world you'd love to visit?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Bookish Blog Hops' VALENTINES HOP, Day 6!



Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

I am an absolute sucker for any kind of fairy-tale adaptation or re-telling! So long as it doesn’t take a hard nosedive into “straight-up kinky smut” I am 100% sold on it. I love the quaint thoughtfulness of a good fairy tale, the didactic nature that wasn’t there just for entertainment, diversion, or fetish fulfillment--these tales were meant to get people thinking from a different perspective, to see real-life circumstances in a whole new light through a strong, innately beautiful method of storytelling. The Lunar Chronicles is hands-down my absolute favorite, but I’ve also come across some gorgeous fairy-tale tellers in their own right: Cameron Dokey makes no bones about the fairy tales she re-tells, and most of them are pretty beguiling; Cornelia Funke takes the flavor and atmosphere of a fairy tale and spins something completely new and original for her readers, not just in the Inkheart Trilogy but also her YA series, “Mirrorworld”, and the stand-alone novels she’s crafted. Now, there are dismal failures in that realm, such as Michael Buckley’s ill-conceived Sisters Grimm that could have been such a fantastic launching point for kids who shirk at fairy tales--but for too much emphasis on gross substances or crass habits that adults actively try to discourage in kids… It dumbs down the tone of the story, I feel, shifting right into the kind of immaturity that kids reading chapter-books should be quickly growing out of. But there are some fantastic ones out there, such as books by Shannon Hale, Marissa Burt, and Rick Riordan (though he’s more mythology, not exactly “fairy tale”)!

Forbidden love has to be the top one for me. Location, culture, class or circumstances stops them from being a couple - think Poldark or The Princess Bride. Here, we have a lot of soul-searching, whispered conversations and loaded looks, as well as a heart-swell at the end when the couple stands together against the world and love conquers all.


Kristin F: Jørgensen -- https://luktenavtrykksverte.blogspot.com/
I can't deny I have this thing for books about World War II. I know it's not a cosy and pleasant theme at all, but as it's such a big topic, there's always new angles to check out.


I NEVER liked romance novels, well modern ones anyway. (I like The Bronte’s and Ms. Austin, but there isn’t any sex in them ;) ) Until I caught onto Nora Roberts. I really like the murder/mystery/thriller romance books. I loved Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, etc., and my librarian told me about Birthright and instantly Nora was a favorite. I can skip the Sex if I wanna or read it if I like the couple. But I ALWAYS like a good mystery!






I enjoy a good enemies-to-lovers romance. The banter back and forth and seeing them grow fight their attraction is always a fun adventure. Endurance by Amy Daws and Boys of Brayshaw High by Meagan Brandy are two of my favorites in this genre.




Jo Linsdell -- www.JoLinsdell.com
I love a good "who did it?" The more grey the characters, the better (author Ethan Cross is awesome at doing this). Give me action, suspense, and mystery any day!

I also love the friends to lovers trope. When I get to the end of the story it’s easier to imagine them living happily ever after.


Another favourite of mine is strong, dorky characters. I love seeing them grow and become the amazing character they always were but just didn’t realise it. This is probably one of the reasons why I love the Percy Jackson series so much.


How about you? What are some tropes or themes that never get old for you when you read? Share your thoughts with us in the comments! 
See below for a complete schedule and links to the other blogs. For more Blog Hops featuring The Upstream Writer, click >HERE<


Day 1: Where is your favourite place to read?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)

Day 2: Which book do you wish had a sequel?
Host: ME! (*You Are HERE)

Day 3: Who gave you your love for reading?
Host: Laura Morningstar (http://sawdustandspoons.com)

Day 4: Who’s your book crush?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Day 5: A book you bought for it’s beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too.
Host: Sarah Nowicki (www.paranormalpeach.com)

Day 6: A popular theme, or trope you will never get bored of reading.
Host: ME again! (You are HERE!)

Day 7: A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counterpart.
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 8: Full on Romance Books Or Action-Packed With A Few Love Scenes? Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 9: Love triangles, yes or no?
Host: Brandy Potter (www.brandypotterbooks.com)

Day 10: A book with a heart on the cover?
Host: Jo Linsdell (www.JoLinsdell.com)

Day 11: A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 12: One book at a time or several?
Host: ME again! (You Are HERE!)

Day 13: An author you would love to interview?
Host: Lili Marcus (https://lilisblissfulpages.wordpress.com/)

Day 14: Last book you recommended to someone?
Host: Kim Jacque (www.writersideoflife.com)

Day 15: A fictional world you'd love to visit?
Host: Stormi Johnson (www.bewitchedreader.wordpress.com)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Reader's Review: "The Truth Behind" by Kelly Blanchard


Synopsis from Amazon:
This is a collection of short stories that current before, during, and after the first three books of the Chronicles of Lorrek series. In it, more is discovered about the characters of the books, and events that were merely mentioned in the books are actually shown and experienced in these short stories.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>

My Review: 

Delightful! Want to know the next-best thing to reading another book in the series--or perhaps the best way to bide one's time waiting for the next book? Reading a short story collection! It's almost like reading fanfiction--only absolutely everything is totally "canon" because they are written by the original author!
Such is the case for The Truth Behind. As a writer myself, I can say with certainty that there is a lot that goes into developing a story, and events in the individual lives of key characters, all of which has a definite effect on the way a character responds and interacts, sometimes even in the way certain characters are unable to be in a certain scene, or arrive in time to perform certain actions--but when it comes time to edit, there just isn't reason enough to justify leaving the scene in the draft, so out it comes! Or perhaps (as was the case for me and Princess of Undersea!) there are times when the author has enough of a vague idea of the "behind the plot" event happening to reference it in the novel, but it isn't until much later that the idea coalesces enough to actually firm into a scene that explains exactly what happened... So what does one do with those?
If you're Kelly Blanchard, with her ever-expanding series Chronicles of Lorrek, you put them all in a collection of 4 novella-length "volumes" and bestow it upon your fervent fanbase.

These stories were an absolute joy to read, even if I've only read the first four books. Regardless, they opened my eyes to some of the references I encountered in the books without realizing their significance, and they answered some of the questions I would have as to "what really happened" in those events that had a profound effect on all the characters, but didn't receive a full explanation in the book itself. Fifty-two stories (one for every week of the year) would be a lot to go through, so for the sake of this review, I've gone through each of the "volumes" and chosen my three favorites!

Volume 1: Who We Once Were--Delving into the much-referenced history of the main characters, this volume very much served to provide the background for much of what happened in the first two books, especially as it pertains to Lorrek and his boyhood, coming into magic. My favorite stories were the ones featuring the assassin Vixen, and also the story arc that brought to light the details of the decline of Mordora's father, and how someone so connected to many magic-users could be so dead-set against magic of any kind... We get a glimpse of Mordora herself, who she once was, before the apparent acts of betrayal committed by those she trusted so much sort of soured the relationships she valued. Connecting her to the characters of Tobias and Aiden--both of whom showed up in the main series--did well in fulfilling the title of this collection (something Blanchard is fond of doing, and does very well, I might add)!

Volume 2: The Deeds We've Done--The collection continues with a slew of stories that just happen to pertain to certain deeds committed by certain characters--not the least of which is Loroth's relationship with Vixen--a prince and an assassin don't seem like they would get along very well, but the tenderness which grows between them, and the intensity of their commitment to one another shows very plainly in the choices they make for the sake of one another! This volume also focuses on another favorite character of mine, Ceras (yet another assassin--what can I say? They are some boss ladies!!) who ends up accomplishing some very important deeds in the main series--and my favorite story of hers is when she learns "the truth behind" (HA!) the unintended outcome of a choice she made long ago--and one she chooses to rectify any way she can! I also liked learning more about Atheta and her dealings with the Princes of Cuskelom, since the whole series essentially begins with the fact that she has disappeared and everyone is convinced Lorrek abused her and possibly killed her... a reputation he desires to redeem himself of. Some important deeds happened in these stories, with serious repercussions, and it's always important to know the truth!

Volume 3: The Things We've Said--If one's past and one's deeds are important, one's words must be taken into account as well! These stories feature characters making important declarations, or they are the true stories behind events referenced by characters in the main story--not the least of which is the infamous Rakessat attack that shattered the normal, everyday lives of all six kingdoms in one massive explosion in the Porta Cosmica. My favorite stories in this one were: "Torroth Visits Jechorm", where Lorrek's own father made an important choice that ended up with certain words and decisions being attributed to him, while he remained completely unaware of the agreements made in his name; "Roskelem Returns To Serhon", which provides a deeper understanding of just how far gone the mad king was, how much of his sanity was exchanged for obtaining power that should never have been his... and how much his ambition blinded him to the hate that was brewing in the corner from which he should have received the most support... And also I liked the conversation between Lorrek and his mother, after all is said and done, where she joins him in grieving over the effects of his choices, while at the same time expressing her belief in him. Just that one bit of support is the motivation and the strength he needs to keep him going on his journey to set things right. Wonderful!

Volume 4: The Secrets We've Kept--Possibly the best part of writing is all the little "secrets" that come out as one is developing the plot, secrets that have a profound effect on the plot precisely because no one character has all the information... and now, readers of the Chronicles of Lorrek get at least a small sampling of secrets that various characters knew long before some cataclysmic event brings them to light, or perhaps they never quite got explained properly then, but now here is The Truth Behind those mysterious, hidden deeds! My absolute favorite in this particular section was the whole batch of kept secrets brought to light concerning the entertaining duo Adonis and Skelton. Raised as brothers, they find out secrets about their past that create some very unexpected connections to other key characters in the series--and I am all here for it! I also very much enjoyed watching different characters learn more about the history of the kelliphs--information the readers learn through discoveries made by Lorrek and Radella in isolation over the course of Book 4, but no one else had learned much about it... until now. Secrets long kept are unravelling, some of them leading to more secret-keeping as those who reveal partial information choose to keep some for themselves... What the consequences of such choices might be, only time will tell...

Overall, this was a great collection and a fitting companion to the Chronicles of Lorrek series! I give it a full-on *****5 STAR***** rating, and an Upstream Writer Certified ASSUREDLY RECOMMENDED endorsement as well! If any of my summaries and references (which I tried to keep as spoiler-free as possible!) intrigued you at all, I strongly suggest starting the Chronicles of Lorrek series today, and let the magical worlds (and words!) of Kelly Blanchard sweep you away!

Further Reading: (Epic Fantasy/Strong Series/Excellent World-Building/Short Story Collections)

The Chronicles of Lorrek--Kelly Blanchard 
        -Someday I'll Be Redeemed 
        -I Still Have A Soul 
        -I'm Still Alive 
        -Do You Trust Me? 
The Fair Folk Chronicles--Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
        -Foul is Fair 
        -Street Fair 
        -A Fair Fight 
        -All's Fair 
The Therian Way--Kimberly Rogers
       -Leopard's Heart 
       -Wolf's Path 
       -Tiger's Shadow
The Firebird Fairy Tales--Amy Kuivalainen
       -The Cry of the Firebird 
       -Ashes of the Firebird 
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland 
     -Dance Into The Wyrd
The Cadeau Series--Connie Olvera
       -Who Can You Trust?
The Shaudrey Universe Series--J. E. Mueller
       -Fire's Song
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey 
       -The Way 
       -The Truth 
       -The Lie