Saturday, July 28, 2018

My Bookish Summer Blog Hop: "What Book Has Been On Your To-Be-Read List For Ages?"

Ah, the T-B-R list/pile/collection/hypothetical record/whatever... Three letters, three words that mean so much to an avid reader. Most of the time, a reader's library is split pretty evenly between "Books Read" and "Books I Haven't Read Yet (But I Am Doing My Best, And So Help Me I Will Finish Them All Before I Die!)". If you're like me... the latter pile just keeps getting longer with each passing year, as the more I read, the more new authors and books I discover, and with every book I finish on the TBR list, three more come available and I simply must download them! Not even joking... I've successfully completed 10 Reader's Reviews already this year... I'm halfway through my 97th "featured review" book since I started this blog... and I'm still 40+ deep on that Review list--to say nothing of the other "mainstream" library books I'd like to read at some point! There just isn't enough time in a day...

But for now, today's blog hop question asks the tough question. Find out what is one book that each of us blog hop participants have been storing up the longest!

Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

Actually… It would have to be City of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster. Not that it is not interesting to me… it still is! I’ve just been adding books like CRAZY because I downloaded it back when my TBR list wasn’t very full and I thought I would be at it in no time, and able to review it… But then my “hobby” of reviewing books kind of exploded and I just kept adding books and re-sorting the list and prioritizing some over others… City of A Thousand Dolls is still on the list, I swear! I will get to it, eventually! But yeah, it’s been about… five-ish years.

Kelli Quintos

The One You Trust (Emma Holden Suspense Mystery #3) by Paul Pilkington. I read the first two in the series back when I started reading in 2014 and never got around to reading the third. It was the first book I ever put on my TBR when I created my Goodreads account and it’s still on there. I did just recently buy all three in the series for my birthday because I did love the first two, but now that it’s been years, I want to reread them before I start on the last in the series.

Jo Linsdell

The Daemoniac by Kat Ross. This has been on my TBR for way too long. I’m really not sure why it’s taking me so long to get round to reading it. I love thrillers and there’s something about Jack the Ripper tales that has always spiked my interest.

About the book: It’s August of 1888, just three weeks before Jack the Ripper will begin his grisly spree in the London slum of Whitechapel, and another serial murderer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. With taunting messages in backwards Latin left at the crime scenes and even more inexplicable clues like the fingerprints that appear to have been burned into one victim’s throat, his handiwork bears all the hallmarks of a demonic possession.
But consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell is convinced her quarry is a man of flesh and blood. Encouraged by her uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry hopes to make her reputation by solving the bizarre case before the man the press has dubbed Mr. Hyde strikes again.
From the squalor of the Five Points to the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin and the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, Harry and her best friend, John Weston, follow the trail of a remorseless killer, uncovering a few embarrassing secrets of New York’s richest High Society families along the way. Are the murders a case of black magic—or simple blackmail? And will the trail lead them closer to home than they ever imagined?

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller has been on my TBR list forever! I know it’s popular, and I’ve always been a sucker for mythology and myth-inspired stories. I’ve already read an account of the Trojan war through the eyes of Trojan princess and seeress Cassandra (Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays by Christa Wolf), so I can’t wait to read an account of the war from someone on the other side. The queer romance between Achilles and Patroclus is, of course, what drew me to the book in the first place.

How about you? What is one book that you have wanted to read for a long time, but have never got around to it? How long has it been on "The TBR List"? Let us know in the comments, and join the conversation! Don't forget, you can go back to [The Introductory Post] for links to the rest of the Blog Hop!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: "Flashes of Inspiration" No. 8

Prompt: “There is no relief in living when you know you should have died.”

#8: "The Old Man"

Three years, six months, and twenty days.
That’s how long I spent pursuing the secrets of immortality. I chased down every theory, followed rumors across all seven continents, replicating as many experiments as I could, all seeking the one that would supply what others only promised.

I was just running out of time in my seventh month of Year 4, when I encountered the most extraordinary sight:

He wasn’t at all conspicuous. He sat on the bench next to the fountain almost every day. To everyone else, he was just a harmless, lonely old man who liked to sit and watch the people pass by. But I knew the truth.

He hardly moved when I came to sit next to him.
He didn’t speak when I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “I know who you are.”
I plunged ahead, confident that he would respond, given the right opportunity.

“During World War 2, you were General Bartholomew Price of the US Air Force; you engaged the enemy numerous times, survived more dogfights than any other pilot. Before that, you joined World War 1 as Stephen Dirk, a midshipman in the Royal Navy. Your boat sank, and no survivors were reported—guess they didn’t know about you! Before that, you were Jeffrey Clay, a soldier on the Confederate side of the Civil War. They said you fell at Gettysburg... and Little Round Top... and Saratoga...”

He was trembling now, the piercing gaze that had stared at me from ancient, yellowed photographs now fixed on my face.
“No...” he whispered. “No...”
I had just covered the last few centuries, but I had more. “Before that—“

“Enough!” He leaped up from his seat, not even bothering to use his cane for balance. Instead, he flourished it at me like a sword. “How did you find me? Why did you find me? What do you want?”
I stood up, reaching out to coax him back to his seat, as people were beginning to stare. I didn’t want people to think I was just a rabble-rousing youngster terrorizing this frail old man for the fun of it.

“I want to know how you did it,” I answered softly. “What is your secret? I have been hunting for the secret to immortality for a very long time now, and you were the one who came up again and again in the historical records I found. You tried to change your name, you tried to hide each time, but I found you! At least give me some sort of hint, in return for my tenacity!”

The man—he went by Old Mike Jefferson in this century—stared at me, the pain in his eyes melting to pity and disbelief.
“Your reward? You want my secret? Young man, the reward is that you may keep your temporal existence, knowing that you are not throwing away the one life you have in the pursuit of the one you never will achieve.”

I frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Old Mike tugged on his bushy white beard. “You think I asked for this? You think I found some trinket or happened upon a magical spell that I entered into, full of the knowledge of exactly what I was doing? You think I wanted to fight in all those wars, only to wake up in a coffin, a morgue, a hearse, a mass grave? You know the names I made for myself—but do you even know me?”

A dreadful chill settled over me, seeing his wide, frantic eyes.
“Who...” I gulped. “Who are you?” I whispered.

Old Mike straightened with a mirthless smile. “Where I am from, they call me Prince Derrick. I was next in line for the throne. All I needed to do was find my Queen, bring her home, and I would rule the land.” He shook his head, as his features scrunched. “This magic spell you seek? It is a curse, placed on me by a witch who wanted to seize power. I was on my way to a ball in another kingdom when the spell took effect, and I found myself transported from my world to yours, with no money or status, no idea how this world works.”

We sat on the bench, two very different people than we had been when we left it. I was now the greedy young villain, and he the shaken hero past his prime. Now it was my turn to sit in shocked silence while Old Mike rambled on.

“I knew that I had to break the curse in order to return to my rightful place, but in order to do that, I needed to find my True Love, my Queen.”

A prince from another world? I knew he had been suspicious, but this truth was beyond anything I ever expected!

“The curse,” Old Mike explained, “said that I would not die until I found her. Of course, I did everything I could, for the first few centuries. During the spread of the Roman Empire, I chased after every woman I could, looking for the one I sought. I didn’t care what happened to me, because I knew that I would live as long as I hadn’t found her yet.”

“What about—“

“The wars?” Old Mike raised his eyebrows. “It was during the Dark Ages, about the time of the Black Plague, when I knew my True Love was very near.” His voice grew hoarse, carrying a strange catch I didn’t understand. “I was so concerned, that when I actually caught the plague and broke out into all those hideous boils, I wanted to die, but all I was concerned about was staying alive and getting well so that I could keep searching for her.”

I frowned. “But the plague... there wasn’t a cure. Once you caught it, you died.”

“Unless you were cursed,” Old Mike muttered, with a dark chuckle. “I know. I was the only person who recovered, and as soon as I got better, I went out in search of my True Love—not knowing that she had, in fact, been the nursemaid who cared for me the whole time I was ill.”

“No way!” I gasped.

Old Mike nodded. “By the time I figured it out and returned to the hospital, she had already been taken with the disease. She had shown me nothing but kindness and I had rebuffed her, in my selfishness and vanity over how horrible my diseased body looked!” Tears glinted in his eyes, and his shoulders quivered. “That is why I fought in all those wars. I wanted relief, from the guilt I felt for not recognizing my Queen, and from this endless existence of being the ‘sole survivor’ and having to change my identity every time I ‘died.’ But I found no relief. I had missed my chance at True Love, and so I have been forced to carry on, being struck down, blown up, dismembered, eviscerated—all knowing that I would never see my kingdom again.” He gripped my hand with the strength of a much younger man. “I beg you, live your life. Find the ones who love you, and keep them very close. Do not pursue immortality, thinking that it will make you brave or relieve you of whatever pain you wish to leave behind. The bravest men are the ones who know they have but one life to live, and they give it up for someone else. I promise you, there is no relief in living when you know you should have died. Promise me you will end this infernal quest, and be satisfied with the life you have!”

I nodded, almost unwilling to speak. “I promise.”

That was the last time I ever thought about immortality. It was also the last time I saw Old Mike. Had he passed on? Moved away? I often told myself that he had somehow found a way back to his own kingdom. I can only hope it’s true.

Did you enjoy that story? Tune in every Friday for more "Flashes of Inspiration"!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Reader's Review: "The Alcatraz Coup" by Patricia Loofbourrow

Synopsis from Amazon:

What if the man you swore to protect ordered you to commit genocide?
Fifteen hundred years after the Catastrophe, Inventor Benjamin Kerr built the domed neo-Edwardian city-state of Bridges in the center of the former U.S. Three hundred years later, Bridges is in trouble. King Taylor Kerr is elderly, the economy is struggling, and corruption is rampant.
Forty years ago, a fence was built outside of the "Pot of Gold" — the city proper — to keep out the growing numbers of homeless. This number has increased to over a hundred thousand, whole generations knowing nothing but life in the tent camps.
Xavier Alcatraz is head of the Palace Guard. When King Taylor is assassinated by his son, who then gives the order to slaughter everyone outside the fence, Xavier must choose between his vows and his conscience, making a choice which will affect Bridges for generations to come.
Set 100 years before the Red Dog Conspiracy series, this dark, violent story brings you a collision of science fiction, steampunk, and war fiction - Downton Abbey meets Black Hawk Down in a city gone mad.
My Review:

Boy-oh-boy! What a ride!

Loofbourrow absolutely nails it with this prequel novella. I am continuously impressed with the level of world-building she has accomplished, and how thorough a history she has created—all centered around a card game, Bridge. That’s even what the city is called, Bridges. I didn’t realize it until I went to look up this book online—I just thought it was called “The Alcatraz Coup” because it was a political coup orchestrated by a character who happened to be named Alcatraz.

People. An “Alcatraz Coup” is a very clever and “illegal” move in a game of bridge, wherein certain players can get other players to reveal certain cards by a series of moves I don’t understand because I don’t comprehend the game bridge. But this is why the series is so brilliant. She’s naming specific card moves, specific card values (“Jacq of Spades,” “Queen of Diamonds”, “Ace of Clubs”, “King of Hearts”, to name the ones in existence so far) and just about everything about the whole world is card-related: a religious order worships a “divine entity” of sorts called “The Dealer,” the four principal families are all named after card suits—and in “The Alcatraz Coup”, we learn just how those four families came into such power and came to control the land against such sharp divisions, since the city was originally intended as a common utopia for all residents. It’s brilliant!

I love the sympathetic characters Loofbourrow creates. She crafts them slowly and carefully, building to an inexorable crescendo that pulls out all the emotional stops. They are ones that others tend to overlook, just extra names to fill in background roles—until time calls upon them to rise to the occasion, and then they are swept up into a frenzy of peril and intrigue that threatens to devastate them, or bolster them into heroic acts. Xavier Alcatraz, Acevedo Spadros… The cleverness of their character arcs is extremely satisfying. Who would think that a common history teacher who is committed to helping his students understand the origins of their community would be connected to a prominent and violent mafia family? Or what about the man who served as the captain of the King’s Guard, framed and disgraced by the king’s own son (a power-hungry, murderous madman) would be the key to the greatest upset since The Catastrophe?
The whole adventure plays out like a card game, with suspicions, mysteries, machinations and negotiations—and once you start, you won’t be able to stop reading until the matter of The Red Dog Conspiracy is resolved!

THE ALCATRAZ COUP earns a full *****5 STAR***** rating, and comes with an Upstream Writer Certified HEARTILY RECOMMENDED endorsement. Packed with excellent characters, a superb premise, stellar world-building, and a finely-toned conflict, Loofbourrow provides her readers with the perfect gateway into her main series, The Red Dog Conspiracy. *Note: This also feels like the perfect time to mention that the first three books—Jacq of Spades, Queen of Diamonds, and Ace of Clubs—also come together in a Red Dog Conspiracy boxset (yes, the text is linked) that I would say is definitely worth the price! If you like steampunk and you’re looking for excellent characters of either gender, both heroes and heroines that get your heart pumping, and villains that make your skin crawl—The Red Dog Conspiracy has it all!

Further Reading: (Steampunk/Strong Heroines/Intense Battles)

The Red Dog Conspiracy--Patricia Loofbourrow
       -Jacq of Spades
The Jill Andersen Series--J. D. Cunegan
       -Blood Ties  
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey
       -The Way
       -The Truth
       -The Lie
The Alexander Legacy--Sophronia Belle Lyon
       -A Dodge, A Twist, and A Tobacconist
       -The Pinocchio Factor   
Dawn of Steam Trilogy--Jeffrey Cook
      -First Light
      -Gods of The Sun
      -Rising Suns  
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland
     -Dance Into The Wyrd 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

My Bookish Summer Blog Hop: "Share a photo of your local library!"

As a homeschoooled kid, going to the library was the awesomest outing ever. I still remember charging up the steps and veering to the children's section to pick out as many picture books as I could. We kept our "library box" in the corner of the family room, next to the couch, and it was my favorite place to sit and just devour every book in the box. In 2014, just after I started working part-time as a substitute paraeducator for various schools around the district (so, occasionally full-time opportunities, but sometimes quite a bit of downtime), I gave myself the challenge of reading 100 books in a year--and such a feat required weekly trips to the library, the checking out of massive stacks of books... And yet, to this day, I still find plenty of books to capture my interest every time I visit! Libraries are amazing places, no matter what you like to read or how old you are--and today in the blog hop, here are a few of the local libraries represented by the participating bloggers, and our favorite features about them!

Leslie Conzatti (Me!)
Here’s an interior view of the main branch of my local library, because I think it’s the BEST!
It has an AMAZING play area in the children’s section, an indoor balcony to sit at in the nonfiction section, plenty of chairs and tables to sit at on every floor, and a rooftop terrace garden up on the Fiction floor! 
The thing I like most is the fact that the whole library system has two quick book-picking options, if you’re short on time, or you don’t like browsing shelves: Lucky Day, where you can check out a really popular or brand-new book, but you have to read it right away because you can’t renew it. 
Also there is Popular/Staff Picks, where the library staff choose the books they like the most, so that you can read it! I’ve found several authors I wouldn’t have normally chosen on the shelf, using the Staff Picks! Those two places are usually the first ones I check. If I find enough choices between them, I leave happy! If not, I browse the shelf for familiar names or titles! I love my library!


Here is my local library. Well one of them. I go to three different ones. But this one is closest to my house and coincidentally the one that has Venomous Lives on it’s shelf. Honesty, turne the book into the public library system here and they put it on the one closest to my house by pure chance! It had GREAT kids programs and is a really nice place.

Kelli Quintos

I love my little library. I just moved to my town and had no idea our house was five minutes from the closest library. I loved my house even more after driving past this beauty for the first time. This was the first place I started meeting people in my new community. I joined a craft club and book club they hosted there and you can find me at the Octavia Fields Branch Library about two times a week, either attending an event or sneaking in to pick up my goodies on hold.

Jo Linsdell


My nearest library, and the one I go to most often, is in fact a children’s library. I can order in copies of any books I want from other libraries, but the library itself is specialized in children's books and books on parenting. It’s called “Casa dei bimbi” which translates as “House of Children”. My kids love it. They often do events there too which are great fun. Both my kids, and myself have done readings there. This photo is a selfie of me with my eldest son during our recent trip there.

How about you? What makes YOUR library the best? Comment, join the conversation, and brag about your local "book dispensary"! To see what other questions and blogs this hop has visited, Click >HERE< to go back to the Introductory Post with links to every question! 


Friday, July 20, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: "Flashes of Inspiration" No. 7

Prompt: "You've heard voices all your life. One day, you wake up and those voices have become separate, but real, people."

#7: "Zatri's Fate" 

[The setting sun sank below the horizon. Zatri lay on her sleeping pallet, deep within the world of dreams. Bethar did not sleep, but kept watch at the mouth of the cave. The matter wasn’t finished, but he would not wake her to dredge it up again. They would have words in the morning, for certain. Tonight, he would think and plan.]

I saved the document on my laptop, smiled with pride at the paragraph, then entered, just on a whim, two more lines for a chapter break, and the words “Chapter 6”; like Bethar, I was planning for the future. Not just theirs, but the future of their whole world, the future of all Denizen.

I had been writing and rewriting this story for as long as I could remember. It started as just Bethar; he was my alter ego, my role in the game of “Pretend.” I would hear his responses to invisible villains and noble compatriots as I went through the motions. Nobody else really understood my games, at least, not enough to take me seriously. As I got older, Zatri joined him, a desperate, determined foreign princess who needed Bethar’s skill to survive the treacherous journey back to her father’s palace, until at one point I decided that perhaps she ought to stay with Bethar, and so Zatri took over as the main voice in the story in my head, and more details about their world, called Denizen, came to life in my story. The more I wrote, the more the story morphed and changed. Lately, the two had begun to balance out as equals in importance, and at one point, I had Bethar demanding the truth out of Zatri, but instead of telling him, she had waffled about her feelings until she went to bed. I figured I had drawn out the chapter long enough, and I could end it with a sleeping scene—except Bethar; for some reason it didn’t feel right for him to be sleeping along with Zatri right now, not with the unresolved tension.

Unfortunately, unresolved tension in my writing meant that my brain busied itself coming up with every possible scenario for a way the ensuing conversation could play out. This was the sixth rewrite, after all, and there was so much possibility in just these two characters.

I tossed and turned all night, and by the morning, I hated everything. I hated all sounds, all light—and I needed coffee!
I rushed a comb through my hair, threw on some comfy clothes, and slouched my way down to the coffee shop on the corner outside my apartment. One caramel-sauce-americano-with-whip later, I felt some of my sanity and focus return. The babbling of sixty-four possibilities vanished.

That left only one.

“We need to talk.”
It took a few seconds to realize that the voice hadn’t happened inside my head. I glanced to the side. A man stood there, dressed in some kind of formal linen tunic. I raised my eyes upward, taking in his broad shoulders, the way he held his arms like a man with plenty of muscle, the way the collar that folded down just so, up to the scruffy, ill-trimmed half-beard covering the lower part of his face, and the piercing green eyes.

Exactly how I described him in my book.

I just about threw my coffee at him, but he didn’t seem to notice. He sat down across from me, holding my gaze with such eloquent agitation on his face that I could practically predict what was going on in his head, exactly as I had narrated for so many years. Words were never his forte, I had seen to that.

“See here,” the man spluttered, leaning in, “I need to know!”

“You!” I still hadn’t quite recovered, although I had made sure to finish my coffee before anything happened to it. “Y-you're...” Could I say it? Suddenly I was the one without words. “You’re Bethar!”

He gave a little frown with only his brow. Oh heavens! He still had the little scar on his forehead from when I had pretended that the blackberry bushes hid an ambush, and attacked them as Bethar! My scratches had healed in a matter of days, but I had described the fight in much greater detail the third time around, giving him the scar right across his temple.

“Of course I am,” said Bethar. “And you are... well, I don’t know your name, but you know plenty about me.” He shook his head. “I have carried your voice in my mind for a long time.”

Oh, this was too much!
“How did you find me? I’m Rose, by the way.”

Bethar seemed to completely ignore the people around him, as much as they ignored us.
“Rose, you say?” The word sounded strange coming from him. He snorted. “That’s going to take some getting used to.”

“Unfair!” I grumbled at him. This was MY character! He had no business insulting MY name!

Bethar flinched. “You are! You sound like the hostess at an inn I stayed at once.” He glanced over my rumpled morning clothes. “You don’t look much like her, though.”

My cheeks burned. The lively, capable Laurel had indeed been based on an idealized, fantasy-world version of myself, with all my mannerisms and expressions. What can I say? Every writer does a bit of self-insertion now and then!

“Bethar,” I called him back to the topic at hand. “How—“

“I don’t know!” He brought his hand down on the flimsy vinyl table and nearly broke it. We were beginning to get sideways looks.

I grabbed his hand. “Let’s go. I can take you to my place.”

Bethar followed me out of the coffee shop and up the stairs to my apartment. His weathered riding boots thudded on the concrete steps.

“You gave Zatri and me a cave large enough for our comfort, and you live in this miserable hovel?” Bethar asked as we edged into my tiny entryway.

“Of course! Why do you think I gave you all that space?” I retorted. “I was making up for the shortcomings of my own situation by improving and expanding yours.”

I sat in one of the easy chairs and gestured to the other one for him. Bethar was so tall that his knees came up higher than mine by several inches, and the back of the chair barely supported his shoulder blades.
“I can accept you don’t know how you got here,” I said. “But why did you want to talk with me?”

That seemed to get Bethar’s attention. He forgot how uncomfortable he was in the tiny armchair and leaned forward.
“Do you know where Zatri is right now?”

I frowned. “What do you mean, where she is? As far as I’m concerned, you two just went to bed in your cave and that was the end of the chapter!”

Bethar squinted. “Chapter?” He began fidgeting with his hands, a sure sign he was getting nervous—and when Bethar got nervous, he usually ended up stabbing something with one of the dozen knives concealed on his person. I just hoped my furniture wouldn’t have to suffer.
“That’s just it,” he complained. “That’s the last thing I remember too. Next thing I know, I am standing where you first saw me, and you were sitting there, and Zatri is—I don’t know.” He stopped fidgeting and rubbed the scar on his temple. “Maybe she ended up in this world too?” He raised his gaze, as if expecting assurance from me.

I threw up my hands. “How should I know?”

Bethar’s face softened, the way I would describe it whenever he would say something tender about Zatri. “She could hear you too, sometimes. Can you hear her now?”

It was strange, sitting in my apartment, across from one of my made-up (or so I thought!) characters, listening inside my own head for a particular voice. For once, my imagination lay completely stark and empty.
“No,” I told Bethar. “I can’t hear her.”

“She is lost!” Bethar cried, bounding out of the chair. “We need to find her, or we will both die!”

I certainly didn’t have any such plans with them anytime soon!

“Die?” I asked, putting a hand on Bethar’s arm. Boy, was he strong!

“What do you mean, you’ll both die?”

Did you enjoy that scene? Stop by every Friday for more "Flashes of Inspiration"! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Reader's Review: "Beasts of Babylon" by E. A. Copen

Synopsis from Amazon:

Gunslinger Anastasia Thorne won’t stay dead.

Ten years ago, monsters murdered Anastasia and her children. Now, she’s back to hunt down the monsters responsible. She knows their names, their faces, and even where they’re hiding.

There’s just one problem. No one in town believes her.

When the sheriff refuses to help, Anastasia strikes a deal with the notorious outlaw, Jesse Gallagher instead. The pair ride into the mountains in search of vengeance, but the hunters quickly become the hunted. With the sheriff hot on their trail, ghouls on their heels, and werewolves and skin stealing monsters in the mountains, Jesse and Anastasia quickly find out they’re outgunned and in for a long night.

It’s going to take more than silver bullets to put these monsters down.  


My Review:

Wow! This book is an amazing whirlwind of emotion, folklore and peril! Beasts of Babylon tells the story of Ana, a woman who cannot die, and her efforts to hunt down the monsters who killed her child in front of her. The fact that her former husband is the sheriff of the quiet little town of Babylon, and a stickler for the law, doesn’t help her case much.
E. A. Copen is a master at creating sympathetic emotions in her readers. This novel is a bit on the short side, but it packs quite the punch! I felt every death, every wound, and the shock of every resurrection. The vivid descriptions of the monsters gave me chills. All the mistrust, misdirection, and suspicion when the characters couldn’t be sure anyone was who they said they were… Heck, it had me reading some parts over again, trying to see if I missed anything, or if I could figure it out in spite of the confusion! And the conversations and interactions between the different types of characters: the law-abiding sheriff, the reckless rogue with nothing to lose (she thinks), the thief with a healthy sense of honor and duty—each one gave ample food for thought.
A second strength of Copen’s is the amount of research evidenced in the lore she writes. It’s steeped in the traditions of early civilizations to a credible degree, which makes it all the more fascinating and tangible to read. It’s dark and intense, but absolutely worth it if you can stomach the amount of violence and disturbing imagery!

BEASTS OF BABYLON gets *****5 STARS***** from the Upstream Writer! The plot, the premise, the characters, the dialogue, and the conflict and resolution all hit the right spots—this book is definitely as un-put-down-able as they come! If you’re a fan of dark, urban, paranormal adventures, you don’t mind some blood or dismemberment, and you’d like a book with solid characters that’s easy to lose yourself in for a few hours—BEASTS OF BABYLON fits the bill, for sure!

Further Reading: (Paranormal/Supernatural/Horror/Folklore/Fantastic Female Leads)
The Portal Prophecies--C. A. King
     -A Keeper's Destiny
     -A Halloween's Curse
The Books of Winter--R. R. Virdi
       -Dangerous Ways 
The Runespells Series--Sarah Buhrman
       -Too Wyrd
Tales of the Fallen--Katika Schneider
The Grave Reports--R. R. Virdi
        -Grave Beginnings
        -Grave Measures
        -Grave Dealings
The PSS Chronicles--Ripley Patton
       -Ghost Hand
       -Ghost Hold
       -Ghost Heart
       -Ghost Hope
Judah Black Series--E. A. Copen
       -Guilty By Association  
The LouisiAngel Series--C. L. Coffey
        -Angel in Training
        -Angel Eclipsed
-Murder in Absentia--Assaph Mehr
-Sanctuary--Pauline Creeden
-Charon, Unguarded--A. H. Johnstone 

Friday, July 13, 2018

My Bookish Summer Blog Hop: "What Was The Last Book You Recommended To Someone?"

One thing is certain: if you're friends with a reader, chances are great that they've recommended books to you. The single most complicated question you can ask a reader is "What is your favorite book?" If we do have a favorite, it's in particular because of the genre, or it's because of certain words or imagery the author uses (but we might not necessarily like other books by that same author...) The more we read, the harder it becomes to narrow it down to just one. We love books, and we want to share the joy... in some cases, the intense grief... the food for thought... the emotional rollercoaster of a great book. Take our word for it! If you're looking for a credible recommendation for your next read, here are a few that are sure to please!

Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

I recently recommended a series I love to a coworker because she mentioned how much she liked The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. The GraveReports by R.R. Virdi are like a hilarious homage to Dresden Files, with a bit of Quantum Leap and Supernatural mixed in—pretty much if Season 3 Dean Winchester decided to take what he knew about monster hunting and go into the “private investigation consulting” business… or something. I love this series, I love this author, and if you like any of the franchises I mentioned, you will definitely love it too!

The series stars a character by the name of Vincent Graves—actual name and appearance unknown, but he died sometime in the past, and the Powers That Be saw fit to keep placing his soul into the bodies of people recently deceased “under adverse supernatural circumstances”, and so Vince must use the body of the person and the memories that still remain to piece together how the person died and what he must do to rectify the situation. From a museum curator who unsealed the wrong jar, to a mental patient whose hallucinations were really there (to name a few of the bodies he’s inhabited) Vince muddles through his cases with care, charm, and heaps of sass!

Kelli Quintos

My favorite book of 2017 is the book I automatically recommend to everyone. I LOVED The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and can’t speak highly enough about it. I did automatically buy her next, The Great Alone and was a bit disappointed after The Nightingale, but I’ll still stand behind without a hesitation, The Nightingale.

Synopsis: Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters' relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

Jo Linsdell

I’m all about The 7 ½ Death’s of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton at the moment. I would (and am) recommending this book to everyone. It was so good! Best read of the year so far, and probably one of my all time favourites now too. I did a video review of it at This book is Agatha Christie meets Quantum Leap. I couldn't put this book down!  It took me a moment to understand what was happening at the very beginning but then it became addictive. Each character bringing another piece of the puzzle and more insight into the other characters. So many twists along the way. Stuart Turton is a genius.

We discovered Kate Morton when Allie was wandering around Barnes & Noble looking for her next great read. She is a talented writer that crafts a captivating tale.

In *The Secret Keeper*, the reader follows two stories throughout the book. In one story, Laurel has some demons from when she was a girl and something tragic happened. Now many years later, her mother is nearing the end of her life and she must get answers before it's too late. The other story is about three people trying to survive in London during WWII.  How these stories interact to come to a full conclusion is just marvelous!

This book has a lot of character growth and evolution. There is inherent danger, love, and the mystery of the past and what could have been. This is one book that we have read multiple times. As every time read, new details appear and more things make sense!

We love all of her books. If you haven't read Kate Morton before, we recommend starting with this one!

Marcia Marques

The last book I recommended to a friend was Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. 

Five friends get stuck in a time loop called Neverworld Wake.  Only 1 can survive.  Would you be able to choose who?
You will not be able to put this book down, and if you do, you will find your mind drifting back to Neverworld…
This was my first novel by Marisha Pessl, but I will definitely read all her other novels!!!


What about you? Are you in the habit of recommending books? What books have you recommended recently? Share some titles with us! Don't forget to stop by the >Introductory Post< to see any questions you might have missed!
Catch You Further Upstream! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Upstream Updates: July Edition!

Greetings to all my followers! I hope your summer is going well. Mine is definitely shaping up! I do believe July will be my most productive month thus far!


What Happened To Simon: A Princess of Undersea Reviewer Tribute Story 

First things first, this story is pretty much finished—namely that I cannot write any more of it until the last two reviews come in—so if you haven’t reviewed it yet, I strongly encourage you to do so! I think those reviewers I attributed rather enjoyed the characters I made for them—you would, too! I’ve posted the first bit of the story on Facebook—follow this link >HERE< to read it, if you have an account.
A bit about it: Those who have read my novella might recognize Simon as one of the young men in Prince Nathan’s patronage, and also a participant in the ill-fated boating “accident” that quite literally threw Nathan into the path of mermaid princess Ylaine. One of my early readers pointed out that it was kind of unfair to introduce Simon and allude to a rich backstory, just to kill him off immediately afterward. This reader wondered what might have happened if Simon also survived, but nobody on Overcliff knew it. It took a few months, but I hit on an idea, and with the addition of throwing in characters based on my first 10 reviewers, I am finally able to reveal What Happened To Simon.

The Dragon’s Mark

Oh boy! I am so excited! My dragon-infused rendition of Cinderella is nearly finished! Granted, it’s about a month too late and more than twice as long as it was originally intended to be... but I am very pleased with the outcome and I cannot wait to share it with you all!!
A bit about it: If you were following this blog back in 2014, you probably saw when I posted “The Suggestion Box, Volume 2!” Otherwise known as “The Legend of the Ecrivaine,” it used the randomly-generated (from willing friends and acquaintances) lists to tell a continuous story of an unsuspecting girl who gets swept up into an adventure full of intrigue and lost rings and a dragon that needs to return to his own dimension. It was VERY fun to write, and I am happy to report that the parts I re-purposed for my Cinderella story (namely the Dragon, the lore behind it, the Dragon’s Mark concept, and the Ring) fit incredibly well, and though the first few parts might sound familiar to those who have read The Legend of The Ecrivaine, (or who will go back and read it at some point during the perusal of this blog post), bear with me because once the main character shows up, things are going to get quite a bit different! A few ideas I added are the setting, a small, fictional town in Southern Italy in the 1920’s/1930’s (because they talk about The Great War) governed Mafia-style by a large extended family, and all the residents must abide by the Family’s Rules and swear fealty to the Family; also, my main character, Stella, is shunned and despised because she has this strange skin condition that looks like a cross between dry skin and dragon scales. It scars and warps her features—but nobody can explain where she got it from. Fun times!

The Last Inkweaver

After a couple weeks where I battled to get this one rolling again, we’re finally back at it! It's kind of amazing how the new "courtroom" scene played out--not quite the kind of involvement that I thought Callista would have, but it worked pretty well--I just have to make sure things don't get too incredible in an upcoming scene, or I just might have to go back and rewrite what I've already done. The amazing thing is that I've had to subdivide the same chapter twice--when I made the plan, I didn't realize just how much stuff was going to actually happen, and how much time various conversations take... But I don't mind! The word count is creeping up there, and it's all good!
A bit about it: Poor Callista is having a tough time believing in the purpose of her journey and facing the consequences of her choices as following Morgianna’s advice leads to her being publicly humiliated, she rejoins her friends to discover that they’d sold most of the clothes she brought along with her, and they are no closer to catching up with the convoy. Despair is setting in... But all is not lost! They’re about to receive help from someone who knows about the Wordspinners, so perhaps this will motivate Callista to continue tracking down the Inkweaver!

My Bookish Summer Blog Hop

This summer’s blog hop is underway! For your convenience, I have linked all the corresponding questions in the [Introductory Post] so if you haven’t seen it, want to get caught up, or maybe even answer the questions and get in on the discussion, feel free!
The reason I enjoy doing blog hops is because of the networking aspect. I get to answer questions on my FAVORITE TOPIC, I get to find people with similar tastes to mine, and I get to support bloggers like me. I know how discouraging it can get when it seems like I write something that I think is cool or fascinating, and post it, and it gets either very few views, or lots of views with no responses. I love interacting with other readers, bloggers and authors!
I am hosting another post this Friday, which just means that maybe I'll delay "Flash Fiction Friday" to Saturday... No big deal, I know, just a heads-up for those who actively follow my blog!

Word Count

I am officially (still, as of this post!) over my word count goal for today! This is why I am so thrilled to be giving this update—it’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do for four months now! I am definitely going to be able to achieve this month’s goal—and then, let’s hope I still have enough going on that I can maintain that lead going into August and back to work! It’s been really fun to challenge myself, and I think a large part of being able to do this is my strategy of setting a daily writing time. Granted, on a full-time work schedule I might not be able to have this much time to spend, but at least, with forming this habit, and having enough projects to keep the words flowing, I should be able to at least continue writing consistently, even if I may have to diminish my goal over the months.


Snazzy new cover
I am proud of! :D
Holy smokes! It’s #Wattys season! From June 1 until August 1, Wattpad authors can designate various eligible stories to compete for the coveted #Wattys2018 award! As I mentioned last month, I have 3 stories in the running—if you or someone you know uses Wattpad, please be a good friend and share this post with them, so that they can vote for my stories!

SINCE WE FOUND SERENITY 14 Votes, 5 Comments
THE CLAN OF OUTCASTS 3 Votes, 1 Comment

In the last month, I completed the Grimm/Supernatural crossover KEEP PORTLAND GRIMM, started posting the first of an old series A WRITER’S TALE #1: THE DRAGON’S QUEST, and just this weekend I launched a new(old) fanfiction, the first one I ever wrote for the show Grimm, called READ BETWEEN THE LINES. That one in itself isn’t very long, but immediately after it, you’ll have the sequel, FAIR TRADE to look forward to!


Featured Reviews

I may have had only one review posted in June, but I was successful in completing an “indie book” early this month (review is >HERE<) so that leaves me plenty of time to get another book read! The book I finished just last week was Dreamtime Dragons, which, as some of you know, contained my short story, “Arthur and The Egg.” I took this opportunity to read the other submissions and holy moly! You’ll just have to read the review to find out what deliciousness is in store for you! Currently reading Beasts of Babylon by E. A. Copen. If that name looks familiar on this blog, I have read and reviewed the first book in her urban fantasy/ paranormal investigator series, the Judah Black Novels. (That review, for Guilty By Association, you can find >HERE<) I really loved it, and I’m already intrigued by some of the characters in this new book, which leans more toward the horror genre, so I am really looking forward to what this adventure has in store! My goal is to have 2 more books finished by the end of the month, bringing this month's total Reader's Reviews to THREE!

Books On My Nightstand

Yep, that’s 2 books out of 4 finished! I finished reading All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Steifvater (every bit as full of heart and intrigue and magic as her Raven Boys Cycle!), and End Game by David Baldacci, the fifth book in his Will Robie series. Electrifying and gripping as ever! Coming up next, I am currently right in the middle of Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence, the second book in his Books of the Ancestor series—and his first with a female MC, and he’s doing a fantastic job of it! Nona Grey is equal parts compelling and frightening—and Keot keeps things interesting! After that, I’ll round it off with The Fix, another David Baldacci book, this time returning to his Amos Decker series—because why not? Always fun to see the world through the eyes of such a special mind as that character has!


So that’s where I’m at so far! Feel free to ask me any questions, or share what you have going on!

Catch You Further Upstream!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Reader's Review: "Dreamtime Dragons" by Dreamtime Tale Fantasy Authors (Edited by Nils Visser)

Synopsis from Amazon:
Stories, drabbles and sample chapters; the Dreamtime dragon authors are a collective of storytellers brought together by their love of Fantasy in all its guises.

Travel the Wyrde Wood with a giant wyrm or defend a pod of humpback whales with a dragon, explore the deepest goblin caverns, search for a dragon egg in the midst of a Viking raid or in a post-apocalyptic city where five gold coins is the price for the prize you seek!

Explore imaginary worlds with creatures of Fantasy and dragons... lots of dragons! Noble dragons, funny dragons, cloud dragons, spirit dragons and even a revenge dragon!

Humour, drama, mythology and more await in 12 stories and drabbles, plus 8 novel excerpts that will lead you to your next great Fantasy read! Find the Dreamtime Dragon authors on Facebook in the group, Dreamtime Tale Fantasy! ALL proceeds have been pledged to the Abington Ferret Refuge in Northamptonshire.


My Review:

Oh wow! This was an amazing ride! I am so glad I get to be a part of it!

A few years ago, I was invited to join a group of fantasy authors, several of whom I had read by then. It was fun to expand my network, and I enjoyed picking up new books and discovering all the amazingness this group had to offer, plus getting and giving critique between each other always ended up very good-natured and encouraging!
Well, early last year the admins put forth the idea of compiling a themed group anthology. We decided to use it for charity rather than profit, and everybody both contributed a piece, whether a short story, a one-page drabble, or a sample chapter from an existing novel, and each of us agreed to help with the editing process. Thus DREAMTIME DRAGONS came to be, and while I had read a couple bits, I had no idea the breadth and the scope of everything taken together! Seeing them all within one cover has me very proud and exceedingly pleased! For the sake of this review, I couldn’t review all the stories, but I chose the ones that stood out to me the most.

The anthology kicks things off with a rambunctious adventure in 101 Uses For a Dragon by Nav Logan. It was one of the works I read for editing, and I was giggling then and I giggled again! It reads like a Terry Pratchett story, full of heart, charm, intrigue, and a heavy dose of satire. Also included is Free Will, a sample chapter from one of his novels—and it drew me in very quickly, I enjoyed the characters and the premise it introduced! This one is definitely going on my Author Watchlist!
The ones I found really fascinating were the stories that actually told things from the dragon’s perspective, as was the case with Guy Donovan’s submissions, two sample chapters from two different novels. Shandikhaar brought us into the mind of a female dragon intent on protecting her nest from the two-legged “vermin” after the death of her mate, while Biters gives readers a glimpse into the relationship between air creatures and water creatures, centering on a dragon who spent some time living among a pod of whales, swimming in the water. Very enchanting!
Hauling Fire by A. J. Noon was a quaint, funny little story about two bumbling cargo-movers tasked with delivering a crate with mysterious contents to a wizard—but the trip is far from smooth. I enjoyed the two humorous short stories from Assaph Mehr, an author I’ve enjoyed before: Modern Dragon puts a keenly “hipster” twist on the traditional legends, while The View From The Other Side reveals a peculiar disparity between how we have been taught to fear dragons, and how dragons actually feel about “vermin” invading his home and “stealing his bedding.”
The short story I particularly enjoyed was A Soft Spot For Dragons by Marc vun Kannon. Anybody who loves those tales relayed as if from parent to child, anyone who carries nostalgia for a good, imagination-rousing bedtime story—needs to read this story! I loved it all the way through.
Last but certainly not least, (since this review has to end somewhere or I would just keep writing and raving about all the great stories that this book contains!) the works of Nils Visser. The sample scene from Escape From Neverland, I had already read (The Wyrm on The Tarn), but the short story was new: Freósan Draka Treów, an in-depth look at one of the legends hinted at in a conversation between characters. Oh man! His use of Old English really sets an ancient tone over the whole thing, and the way he describes the fantastical events and enthralling scenes will haunt your daydreams once you read them!

It is my genuine pleasure to grant this anthology a full *****5 STAR***** rating, and of course an Upstream Writer Certified ABSOLUTELY RECOMMENDED endorsement. By the way, this is the anthology for which I finished the short story “Arthur and The Egg”, so if you’ve seen that here on my blog and you wanted to find out how it ends—let that be another great motivation to buy the anthology! If you like dragons and you want something new, fresh, and enchanting to read—DREAMTIME DRAGONS is here for you!

Further Reading: (Other Works By Anthology Authors/Dragon-Related Fantasy/Anthologies)

Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland
     -Dance Into The Wyrd
-Murder in Absentia--Assaph Mehr
Spirit Knights--Lee French
       -Girls Can't Be Knights
       -Backyard Dragons  
The Fair Folk Chronicles--Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
        -Foul is Fair
        -Street Fair
        -A Fair Fight
        -All's Fair
-The Longest Night Watch, Volume 1--Lacey D. Sutton (Editor)
-Out of Darkness Rising--Gillian Bronte Adams
The Chronicles of Lorrek--Kelly Blanchard
        -Someday I'll Be Redeemed
        -I Still Have A Soul
        -I'm Still Alive
        -Do You Trust Me? 
Punk Anthologies--The Writerpunk Group
      -Sound & Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 1 Rating: *****
      -Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 2: Once More Unto The Breach Rating: ****
      -What We've Unlearned: Classic Literature Goes Punk
-Songstruck--Sofia Black