Monday, December 31, 2018

Reader's Review: "Finding Pandora, Book One: World" by E. Rachael Hardcastle

Synopsis from Amazon:
Arriette Monroe never expected to be thrust into the heart of supernatural chaos, nor did she deem herself worthy of four incredible gifts. 

But when she hears the legendary Pandora's box has been reopened, putting the human race at risk of extinction, Arriette and her friends begin a quest to find and protect it from Haeylo's most powerful Everlast, Falkon Lou.

Although Arriette thinks she's walking pandemonium, the Recruit think she's their saviour...

And they're willing to prove it.


My Review:

Well! People say history tends to repeat itself... but ancient history? Proof that people don't exactly change, modern-day Pandora finds and opens her fated Box once more, thrusting humanity as we know it into near-extinction while some of them receive special Gifts of supernatural abilities like telekinesis, memory and perception control (called Retainers), Dream-walking, and even Angels with wings for flight. Nearly all of the population are immortal Everlasts. Others aren't born with these special powers but may receive them from others via a blood transfusion. Ariette is one of those, an "average" human with an insatiable curiosity who read all she could about every different Super ability.
That much I got. The rest was a little confusing, when it pulled away from the core group of characters. This adventure, while entertaining enough in its premise and very unique in its plot, just felt far too large for the size of the novel. There were a lot of details in the onset, spanning whole centuries of development that the reader could not experience, and that made it difficult to get going, hard to keep track of everything--but about halfway through, when those pieces came into play, the story flowed a lot smoother and it was easier to understand when I was experiencing and observing those same details, but through the eyes of one character or another.

Those characters, though! I loved how diverse and vivid they all were. From elderly Everlast Casper, to snarky, big-hearted Baby A, soft-spoken Dion... and the villainous Retainer Dean, who never failed to make my skin crawl whenever I saw his name on the page. In that respect, Hardcastle excels, as these characters band together to find Pandora and her Box and get the world put back to rights, before anyone else gets to it first and tries to use all that power for their own purposes.
This was a very unique and eclectic book. More like a web than a neatly-woven ball of yarn, it pulls from many far-flung story aspects, all connecting and combining and converging in the middle for a sweeping debut and the start of a promising new series! I loved the characters, I loved the concept of the Gifts, with all their features and limitations... It might take another read or so to understand the context in which this is placed (Haelyo doesn't strike me as the same dimension as Earth, but then again... a century into the future, it might be...) but I would definitely say it is worth that effort!

FINIDING PANDORA: WORLD certainly qualifies for a modest ****4 STAR**** rating on this solid first installment, and I'm also going to add an Upstream Writer Certified Recommended endorsement for Hardcastle--she's definitely an author worth following!

Further Reading: (Future Dystopia/ Powerful Heroines/Supernatural/Paranormal)

The Untamed Series--Madeline Dyer
The Jill Andersen Series--J. D. Cunegan
       -Blood Ties 
       -Behind the Badge 
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey 
       -The Way 
       -The Truth 
       -The Lie 
The Red Dog Conspiracy--Patricia Loofbourrow
       -The Alcatraz Coup 
       -Jacq of Spades 
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 Portal Prophecies--C. A. King
     -A Keeper's Destiny 
     -A Halloween's Curse 
The Books of Winter--R. R. Virdi
       -Dangerous Ways 
The Shaudrey Universe Series--J. E. Mueller
       -Fire's Song 
The Runespells Series--Sarah Buhrman
       -Too Wyrd
Tales of the Fallen--Katika Schneider
The PSS Chronicles--Ripley Patton
       -Ghost Hand 
       -Ghost Hold 
       -Ghost Heart 
       -Ghost Hope 
The LouisiAngel Series--C. L. Coffey
        -Angel in Training 
        -Angel Eclipsed 
Judah Black Series--E. A. Copen
       -Guilty By Association

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Reader's Review: "Amster Damned" by Nils Visser

Synopsis from Amazon:

A seemingly routine missing person case brings Alice Kittyhawk to Amsterdam where she discovers that locating a missing botanist will involve delving into the murky and illicit world of temporal displacement. Working with the mysterious Ministry of Lost & Found, Alice will have to take on some formidable foes and race against the clock in defiance of the odds which seem to be stacked against her.

My Review: 

More than ever l am convinced that a book by Nils Visser will invariably contain characters that win your heart, a suitable amount of action and peril, plenty of heart-warming moments... and a LOT of colorful slang!
He adds to his native Sussex jargon a plethora of Dutch phrases and terms, and one necessarily hears the thick accent anytime the strange terms appear—but that is all part of the immersive experience of Visser’s storytelling. The foreign words sound natural, and it’s easy to discern their meaning, with the context of the dialogue in question.

And what a context it was! A daring agent of time-travel, making her way around Victorian-Era Amsterdam on a quest to find antique books that will eventually lead her to an important figure who may hold the key to unfettered time travel. A figure that the time-travel authorities are also hunting down, in a much more ruthless manner. It’s a zeppelin battle, a race through the Dutch alleyways, it’s alternate identities and fierce combat.

Beyond the strange terms, both multilingual and slang, the feature that took me the longest to get used to was the fact that the entire book is written in limited third person, present tense. It’s a style usually reserved for first-person narrators, but the fact that the present narrator focused on Alice and her experiences is not in fact a participant in the story, gives a strange sort of sense of an external observer recording these events, but transcendent beyond the specific time and space they are observing. That being said, the deeper I got into the mystery and intrigue, the faster I got used to this unorthodox method of phrasing.

I cheered, I gasped, I eagerly flipped page after page till I got to the end. All in all, Amster Damned delivered a rip-roaring adventure with lots of intrigue and heart, and I am definitely interested in pursuing this unique premise further as the series develops!
Amster Damned earns for itself a top-marked *****5 STAR***** rating, and I'll throw in an Upstream Writer Certified TOTALLY Recommended endorsement. If you like steampunk, aeroships, colorful characters, and don't mind some funny new words in your literature--the Time Flight Chronicles is waiting for you!

Further Reading: (Also By/Steampunk/Time Travel/Strong Heroines)
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland 
     -Dance Into The Wyrd

-Sky Knight--Sandra Harvey 
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 
Punk Anthologies--Jeffrey Cook et al. 
      -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 (*Also contains a story by Visser!)
The Red Dog Conspiracy--Patricia Loofbourrow
       -The Alcatraz Coup 
       -Jacq of Spades 

The Firebird Fairy Tales--Amy Kuivalainen
       -The Cry of the Firebird 
       -Ashes of the Firebird 

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

Monday, December 3, 2018

Upstream Updates: December Edition!

Ah yes, the annual post where I come off my “writing high” and take stock of where I am at with my various projects, and decide what I will be working on in the coming year!


The Last Inkweaver

I am now closer than ever to the end—and stinking proud of how far I have gotten! By the end of NaNoWriMo, I had made it all the way into the thick of a scene I like to call "Storytime with Tark", where Callista is telling this long and convoluted story as a diversion while her friends work together and escape the clutches of yet another trafficker... This scene is important for two reasons: first, it's actually the first time that Callista has put together a plan herself and delegated roles to other people with the expectation that they'll follow through on what she's asked them to do. Second, it's the first time that Callista has actually made up a story--and stories, at least in this world, don't just "write themselves"; this marks a real turning point in Callista's journey, and according to the Story Circle, I believe we're on the upswing and getting ready to put everything all together and bring it back around "home"!
This is the first time I have ever been successful with a second draft, and so to finish it would be a motivation for all the other projects I have ever abandoned over the years....

I won’t be spending ALL my time writing it, but I will at least shoot for finishing a chapter every other week until it is done. Then it’s off to the beta-readers! 

And speaking of “abandoned projects”...

A Writer’s Tale

Laura is well and truly entered into the society of Phantom Gulch... and right about now is the point at which she's going to run smack into the trouble that plagues the land, and get thrust into the forefront of the problem she will need to help the citizens solve! 
Granted, I didn’t quite manage “half and half” like I thought I would this NaNo... mostly because Inkweaver turned out WAY longer than I could have predicted... But anyway, I will be back to writing this one more regularly, too; probably I could manage a chapter or so a week, because it’s not as involved as Inkweaver. At any rate, I’m likely not going to count this project as “finished” until all 7 books are done, so it’s going to be a while! I should finish Book 3 by January, and by February, I should be halfway through the series, so here’s to more shenanigans there!

Short Story Sectional

So a lot of you might know that although I have not published another book since Princess of Undersea (Two years old, coming up!!) I have gotten a few short stories published in anthologies! 

There was “Arthur and The Egg” in DREAMTIME DRAGONS;
Also “The Starborn Legacy” in DROWNED IN MOONLIGHT;
And finally, “Heartsong” was included in the anthology CRACKS IN THE TAPESTRY.

Well, recently I submitted an old story to another anthology—I will announce which story and what anthology if and when it gets accepted (although if you’ve followed me on social media you might already know which story...)—and I am excited to announce that the same creative force behind DREAMTIME DRAGONS is producing a second anthology, this one with a theme of “Dangerous Damsels”, stories of strong female heroines who wind up facing their own demons and saving themselves.

To that end, I will also be poking away at my submission for that... which I recently devised!

I call it “Red: The Wolf”, and it’s a twist on the story of Little Red Riding Hood... except that “Red” is a known lycanthrope who defends her little woodland village from threats by taking on the appearance of a wolf to track down missing objects and people, fight off threats, and chase down runaway miscreants.
All that changes one day when she goes after one such swindler... only to find herself stuck in wolf form. 

It’s going to be wonderful and I am super excited to be working together with this group again!

The Return Of Old Projects

As Inkweaver draws to a close, and I find my enthusiasm for writing renewed with each accepted short story... I am once again drawn to return to old projects, just to see what I might be able to do with them now.

One such project is the adaptation I was writing, of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion", which I dubbed "Merely Meredith." I posted excerpts on this blog long ago, before my “career” really “took off”, back when my writing habit wasn’t any big deal... 
But after revisiting it briefly in the recent “A to Z Challenge” (notably for Letter E and Letter M), I found that I kind of missed it and I really did want to find out how it ended up! So in the coming year, I’ll be adding that to the regular rotation, taking a day or so a week to sit down and have a look over it, and perhaps to get back into the groove and push through to the end of that one.

Then, too, there is the matter of what kind of serial post to do. There was Priscilla Sum that never really got off the ground... I could possibly revisit that one and make it work.

That OR the "Flashes of Inspiration" series... Should I get back to doing those? Did you all like them? There are still plenty of prompts where I got them, people in that group just keep posting more and more. Should I keep writing with new prompts?

Or what about doing another Suggestion Box? Would anyone be interested in something like that? It would require participation and involvement from you, my followers. If you’ve never done it before... I promise it’s really easy, and a lot of fun, and I always credit the contributors, so that is more visibility for you, if you’re an author or a blogger like me!


I have a new project started! Since the works that seemed to be getting more attention (votes as well as adds and the like) were my fanfictions, I decided to start posting another fanfic--and the fun thing is, this particular fic is unfinished, so if it garners enough attention, then I would consider adding that to the "weekly writing rotation" until it's finished!

For those interested, the fanfic is titled THE SOUND OF AN ECHO and it's my contribution to the Percy Jackson fandom. I actually developed the idea for it shortly after being very disappointed with the films and pleasantly enamored with the books! It introduces a few new characters, actually centering a lot around a new enemy who wants to get control of a magical Hourglass that is basically "All of Time" and counts down to a global "Judgment Day" that would allow the deity controlling it to pronounce a sentence over the whole world and basically wipe it out... and meanwhile, Percy has to travel with and frequently defend a girl who is the daughter of Echo--and she's inherited Echo's curse in that she doesn't have a voice of her own, she can only speak with a voice she's heard. (Of course that doesn't go over well with the Aphrodite kids...) I got as far as not-quite-halfway, I think, so I still have a bit of time before I have to have a new part ready, but yeah... It's been fun to revisit that one and recall the ideas I'd dreamed up for it--I still have all my notes, so it still might happen, if enough people are interested!

Meanwhile, I've opted to hold off on updating A WRITER'S TALE until I finish "The Sheriff's Showdown." It doesn't seem like many people are reading past "The Dragon's Quest" anyhow... I'm wondering: Should I make each book its own separate work? I thought it might be more cohesive if I kept everything under the same cover, and treated it like a long, continuous work... but at the same time, that doesn't seem to be going very well. Maybe? Please do take a look at what I have there (particularly if you do have a Wattpad account, and thus can have unfettered access to it!) and let me know what you think I should do!


It’s taken quite a while for me to get back to reading... So many GOOD books out there, so LITTLE time to enjoy them like I want to!! After having to return quite a few checkouts to the library unread (a couple of them in particular, I had been waiting for months, and just when I was about to have time to enjoy them... To send them back in??? Travesty.) I am finally to the point where I can take a break from writing to read a bit. Therefore, I am going to try and get through His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik before it comes due, and I’m about halfway through Sue Grafton’s T is for Trespass

In regards to ebooks, I am trying out reading two ebooks at once, since my copy of AmsterDamned by Nils Visser is only on my phone, and I have a Kindle Fire that I'm using for ebooks I get from Amazon, so on that one I've just started reading Finding Pandora by E. Rachael Hardcastle. Both are pretty interesting so far!

So these next few months are going to be pretty busy for both reading and writing. But it's what I love to do, so I don't mind it a bit! Feel free to let me know what you're reading and writing in these next few months! And as always,

Catch You Further Upstream!