Friday, October 20, 2017

TRIPLE BOOK REVIEW: The Norse Chronicles / Karissa Laurel

Hey everyone! I recently finished reading Karissa Laurel's Norse Chronicles series, and it was a blast! I read and reviewed the first book, Midnight Burning, a bit over a year ago, then finally got around to the sequel this summer, and finished up just now. It's been a fun adventure through Norse mythology and twisty-turny plots... so, without further ado, here are my reviews of all three books in the trilogy!

Actually, there is some further ado. I must disclose that Karissa and I share a publisher (Red Adept Publishing, which published my sci-fi books Artificial Absolutes and Synthetic Illusions), but neither asked me to review these books. I bought 'em with my own cash monies, and they are mine to review as I please.

Oh, and one more ado: There's a prequel novella to the series, Moonlight Falling, that I haven't read yet, but totally want to! 

And yet another ado: there are no spoilers in the reviews below, so read without fear!

ANYWAY.

Series Title: The Norse Chronicles
Author: Karissa Laurel
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

GENRE
Urban Fantasy

REVIEWS

MIDNIGHT BURNING (#1)


Four months after her twin brother's murder, Solina Mundy leaves her quiet North Carolina home to clean out his apartment in Alaska. Though the police have designated the case as unsolved, she soon begins to suspect that his friends know more than they're letting on. What's more, she's been getting strange nightmares--visions of a wolf devouring her brother that seem to have come true. She soon discovers that there's more to Mani's world than he told her--legacies of gods and monsters from Norse legends come to life--and that she herself has a greater part in it than she could have imagined.

Okay, who doesn't love a good story of ancient mythology come to life in the modern world? I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, and Karissa Laurel's MIDNIGHT BURNING really hit the spot. The story follows the classic fantasy hero's journey... ordinary character gets jerked out of her banal life by unthinkable circumstances, discovers that she has supernatural abilities, and finds herself at the center of huge, world-ending conflict... But does so with unique flair.

Pause for disclosures. *clears throat* Karissa and I share a publisher, Red Adept Publishing. We're also buddies. However, neither Karissa nor Red Adept asked me to write this review, and all this gushing represents my honest opinion of the book.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, flair. MIDNIGHT BURNING is full of it. Solina herself is a mild-mannered character, a shy girl thrust into circumstances she's completely unprepared for, but the supporting cast is as full of color and energy as a laser show. There's Skyla, a tough-as-nails ex-Marine with the spirit of a modern day Valkyrie who was Mani's close friend and who refuses to rest until she and Solina uncover the truth behind his death. There's Val Wotan, Mani's coworker and buddy whose easy charm and swoon-worthy looks spell irresistible trouble. And then there's Aleksander Thorin, Mani's boss, who's more the strong-and-silent type, but who exudes a mysterious, magnetic kind of allure. As their surnames suggest, Val and Thorin turn out to be closely connected to their legendary Norse namesakes. Very closely connected.

I couldn't blame Solina for stumbling into that love triangle--who wouldn't have trouble picking between the unreliable but oh-so-charming playboy and the standoffish but oh-so-magnetic billionaire?--and for once, I seriously didn't know who Mr. Right was supposed to be.

But the romance part was only a small part of a much more complex story, full of rich worldbuilding that takes Norse myths of old and expands them into the modern world. And detective-story-like mystery-solving as Solina and Skyla seek the truth behind Mani's death. And fantasy adventure as Solina explores her newfound superpowers... and finds herself the target of villains who literally want to end the world. Talk about stakes!

As the story progresses, Solina grows and develops as a character, and I loved watching her emerge from her brother's shadow to become a kickass heroine in her own right. Between the plot and the world and the characters, I was completely hooked and found myself reading every chance I got (I was seriously pulling out my Kindle to sneak an extra page or two every time I had even five minutes to myself).

By the time I reached the end, I was bummed it was over. Fair warning: this book ends on a cliffhanger. The good news: The sequel, ARCTIC DAWN, is out!


Find it on Amazon.

ARTIC DAWN (#2)

Arctic Dawn, the second book in Karissa Laurel’s Norse Chronicles urban fantasy series, picks up where
Book 1, Midnight Burning, left off. After discovering that she’s the reincarnation of the ancient Norse sun goddess, Solina Mundy found herself entangled in a potentially world-ending battle between immortals. Now, after a harrowing fight that forced her to unleash her powerful-but-still-unfamiliar supernatural abilities, Solina just wants to lie low. But a stranger with an legendary weapon forces her out of hiding, and sending her back into the fray.

I loved the first book in this series, and the sequel did not disappoint. Ancient legends in a modern setting, intriguing characters and shocking plot twists – it’s like book candy, and I loved every page! Solina’s quick wit and relatable quirks make her such a fun narrator to follow, grounding the out-of-this-world plot in a way that makes it feel real, even though we’re talking about gods and goddesses and monsters and prophecies and such. She’s grown a bit as a character since she was introduced as a naïve newcomer in Book 1; now that she understands her place in the Norse world, she’s not afraid to take charge of her own fate.

Also returning are the swoon-y god of thunder, Thorin (not Thor, who perished in Ragnorak, but Thor’s son), who’s both a love interest and a source of conflict for Solina, and modern-day Valkyrie Skyla Ramirez, Solina’s best friend. The story has a lot of supporting characters, most of whom are drawn from Norse mythology, creating a colorful pantheon. Oh, and I should also mention, there are some pretty cool action scenes.

Anyway, if you like magical stories in the contemporary world, you should totally check this series out!

Find it on Amazon.

MOLTEN DUSK (#3)

Molten Dusk is the final installment in Karissa Laurel’s Norse Chronicles urban fantasy
trilogy, and man, does this series end with a bang! Solina Mundy, a contemporary girl with a modest life who discovered that she was the reincarnation of the ancient Norse sun goddess, has had her world turned upside down in more than one way. Though she’s started to gain control over her supernatural abilities, a recent betrayal has left her shaken (I won’t say more, since it would ruin Book 2, Arctic Dawn, but suffice it to say that I messaged Karissa to say “Noooo how could you!!!” when I reached that part of the book!). She finds comfort in her growing relationship with Thorin, the god of war, and her friendship with Skyla, a modern-day Valkyrie.

Meanwhile, world-ending plots are still in motion—someone is trying to bring about a second Ragnorak. And Solina has the sneaking suspicion that it’s not just the obvious villain—someone on the inside has been feeding the enemy information. Done with hiding and letting others protect her, Solina takes matters into her own hands, searching for the enemy and trying to untangle their secrets. This book further expands upon the rich world-building developed in the first two books of the series, introducing new elements of the mythology and expanding on previous ones. The same can be said about the romance with the swoon-worthy Thorin…

Also included: battles with stone soldiers and trippy explorations of Norse realms.

Full of thrilling action scenes and unexpected twists, all building up to a climactic final battle, Molten Dusk is a truly satisfying conclusion to an awesome series.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky. Some of her favorite things are coffee, chocolate, and super heroes. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. She loves to read and has a sweet tooth for fantasy, sci-fi, and anything in between. Sometimes her husband convinces her to put down the books and take the motorcycles out for a spin. When it snows, you'll find her on the slopes.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

TRIPLE COVER REVEAL (!): Stay In Touch Books 2-4 / Joy Penny

Today, I'm revealing the covers for Joy Penny's Stay in Touch Books 2-4 (Covers by Berto Designs)! Aren't they swoon-y? 

 





Title: Touch of Heartache
Series: Stay in Touch (Book 2)
Author: Joy Penny
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Publication Date: 12/5/2017

Four friends. Four college grads. Four people figuring out that life doesn’t always turn out the way you expected.

Just weeks before graduating, Lilac Townsend throws away her elementary school teacher job offer in Minnesota to work in Florida at the official resort of her favorite vacation spot, Tildy World. Pushing down all second thoughts, she fills her mind with visions of sunny beaches and Tildy Tapir, the cartoon character who always promised to make her childhood dreams come true. Unfortunately, between a sleazy boss and a community college student in a character suit who manages to fray her last nerve, Lilac soon learns that working behind the scenes at the park is hardly “happily ever after.”

Nolan Gregosky had plans after graduating high school a few years back: go to college, join a fraternity, and make some memories before earning a degree. Instead, tragedy sidelined those dreams, but his job posing for pictures with drooling, snot-nosed kids as Silly Sandgrouse gives him a chance to unload some pent-up energy. When the stunning but uptight new assistant manager at the resort proves a distraction in more ways than one, Nolan realizes it’s up to him to show her what it means to eat, live, and breathe life at the park.

A relationship at this unsteady stage of their lives might not be the brightest idea for either of them, but it’s hard to ignore that tingling sensation whenever the paths of this plush-suit beast and naïve beauty collide.

Trigger warning: Sexual harassment at work.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075Y33Q25/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34873132-touch-of-heartache


Stay in Touch Book 3 (Touch of Comfort, Gavin's story) and Stay in Touch Book 4 (Touch of Romance, Pembroke's story) out in 2018


Catch up with Touch of Fondness, Book One in the series, out now!

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33526180-touch-of-fondness
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06VVHW2FQ/
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/touch-of-fondness-joy-penny/1126189855?ean=9781946202185
Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/Touch-of-Fondness-Audiobook/B073V61282/

Monday, October 16, 2017

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Anthony R. Howard

An interview with author Anthony R. Howard.


 

Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

Before I remember, I remember writing. I’ve been writing all my life, starting in elementary school.  It was simply a passion. A gift. I became a bestselling author in 2010, so I’d say that’s when my writing career took off, however it took 9 years to get a book deal. I stuck with it because it was something I really enjoyed.  It’s part of me.

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

I would have to pick Garrett, from the Invisible Enemy: Black Fox. His level of planning and execution of the missions is near flawless, as long as he has the right information. His character is a composite of projects I personally worked on with the dept of Defense.  I’d also have to pick Kalisa. I like her because she defies all stereotypes. As an author I really don’t like stereotypes. In real life or in my books. In Hollywood, women largely portrayed in the helpless “save me spiderman” role.  With few exceptions, very few women heroes are written about, even in fiction.  I’m not a woman, however I’m very aware of this problem and as a bestselling author have changed the game in a major way with The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox, and The Invisible Enemy II: Vendetta (which features the heroine on the cover, even though it is a technology a spy genre men typically read). Creating major, strong, smart, savvy women characters who are not scared or intimidated by men or their antics from the very first page. These women do not need to use sex or their looks to manipulate men. They use their minds. These revolutionary characters have made history. Traditionally throughout history, women have crumbled empires. From the famous Cleopatra to Anna Chapman to lesser-knowns like Sappho and Marie Curie, yet unfortunately Hollywood continues to downplay a woman’s role in technology and in history. That will only change if the writers change how they approach characters, and get rid of stereotypes in the writing.

From reading the book you clearly have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Dept of Defense, Homeland Security, the CIA, even the FBI and covert technology that really hasn’t been exposed to the civilian global market as yet. How do you know the scoop?

I have a deep background with the Dept of Defense and technology. Currently, I’m an advanced systems consultant for the Defense, Intelligence and Civilian space. I’ve been an advanced solutions consultant  for over 12 years. I’ve worked on projects for desert storm and quite a few other programs worldwide that have saved American lives. I’ve won several awards and several case studies of my solutions have been published across the Information Technology industry. I’ve done a sizeable amount of work for the U.S. Defense Sector, Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. I even relocated overseas to Amsterdam, The Netherlands for more than a year to solve technology issues for American based companies.  This is in addition to the years of research and personal interviews I’ve done. I didn’t get my information from an encyclopedia, I got it from job experience.


What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

I can show you better than I can tell you: This is a snippet of Chapter 1 from the audiobook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCk4AV5147E&feature=youtu.be
There is a secret that will bring America to its knees. Also, check out the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUWj9SkBUYc



From the reviews for the Invisible Enemy Spy series on Barnes and Nobles, Amazon and elsewhere, it seems you’ve drawn not only the spy novel reading crowd, but you’ve pulled from other genre’s. How have you managed to touch readers who traditionally do not read spy novels?
Because from what the readers tell me it’s a great book and an easy read. It’s filled with action, suspense, mystique, intrigue, deception, mystery, romance and even fellowship.  The action starts in the beginning and grabs even the folks who don’t read that much. The book is also written for most ages, including junior high school students, yet it challenges each reader. There are adult themes that the younger readers may not pick up on, but in contrast, I present some younger themes some adults might not pick up on. Certain characters represent certain motifs as well. Adults who have not read a book since high school have picked up the Invisible Enemy and read it from cover to cover.  Then they wanted to know more. I was fortunately able to entertain and educate by picking a topic the Hollywood has not touched before. No story like this exists anywhere. I checked as I’m a spy novel fan myself. Spy movies have been done. Spy novels have been written, but never a technology thriller exposing the real threats of America and what goes on behind the scenes. No story has posed the hard questions to the reader, then answered them. No story dives deep into how spies are trained, recruited, how the Dept of Defense will exterminate a serious threat, or how lines must be crossed and rights are violated in order to ensure the safety of Americans. The reader even realizes how back-door decisions made decades ago by the government can come back to haunt us, and allies can become enemies overnight.  It’s cool to talk about the black and the white areas. I bring the reader into the gray area, where ethics, the constitution, privacy laws, and due process can fall by the wayside when it’s time to knuckle down.


You last two novels were from the suspense/spy/action genre, including the bestseller The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox. How did you make the transition into religious writing, Devil’s Diary: The Coming) and do you think your platform will follow you into this new genre.

In my mind I didn’t make a transition. This is actually the book that got me my first book deal. It was decided by the publishing company to come out with the spy series as a business decision because of my background with technology and the Dept of Defense, and the degrees and awards behind my name. I speak at technology conferences on a regular basis but I wasn’t a famous minister. In their minds, I didn’t have a guaranteed platform to generate book sales. Do I hope my audience follows?  I’d like to think I’ve built an audience who loves good writing, so I believe they will venture into this genre even if it’s a bit new to them, because they enjoy good writing. The point of literacy of to bring people to something new.  Something great. One of my goals in writing is to broaden the experiences of my reader community and add to the literary art form.  It believe its key to not only present a fascinating story to the reader, but to bring value to the reader aside from entertainment. I believe that’s one of the key differences of my style of writing. Everyone loves to be entertained, so I’m obviously going to do that, and I truly enjoy it.  Then a lot of people also value riveting, thought provoking idea’s. Topics where you finish the book and want to know more. Motifs that make you want do a bit of web surfing on the topics presented, or maybe dive even deeper.  Check out the Devil’s Diary Movie trailer: https://youtu.be/l3wuHnaovIs



What was your inspiration for the book?

With my first books, I wrote the book that I had always wanted to read but had never been written. With this book, I wrote the book that really needed to be read but had never been written. It’s a journey for the reader. You have to ask yourself a question during the book: Are you ready to face yourself?  For many people the answer will be no, which makes the book an even deeper journey as they realize where they fall in the battle of good and evil. Each reader will face their own internal journey. Some who are not familiar with any religion will hopefully want to know more as they look inside themselves.  Even though the book is called Devil’s Diary, the book is not about evil. The second part of the title is the focus.  The Coming.


Tell us about this new book Devil’s Diary: The Coming?

Devil’s Diary: The Coming is about what would happen if The Creator returned tomorrow. With the current civil unrest going on, the stage has been set. Sides are being chosen. Angels and their worst enemies prepare for The Coming.  Mary, we are all a part of the book of life. But what if there was another book. . .The Devil’s Diary.

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?

In a way I didn’t choose the genre. It chose me. The novel is edited by the Harvard Divinity school as I didn’t just want to write a novel. I wanted to write something rooted in spirituality and prophecy. I can’t think of any topic tougher to write about than religious prophecy.  Biblical Prophecy is certainly complex.  There are literally hundreds of interpretations and translations. It took a lot a research to write a book that serious appeals to public, but theologically accurate.

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own?


Yes. The book took a life of its own when I started a small studio, Brookline Studios for one reason. Because I wanted to change the way audiobooks were created. Traditional audiobooks are boring to many people. One narrator reads the entire 22 hour story in monotone can lull you to sleep. In the Invisible Enemy: Black Fox Audiobook a new genre is opened to new markets and the social media generation with over 2000 expertly placed sound effects, a cast of talented actors reading the major characters, and movie scores created for every scene/chapter, giving the audiobook a surreal movie theatre experience in additional to an exhilarating story. I actually watched my characters come to life via amazing actors in the studio. As I was also the producer, I was part of the casting. This made the literary experience surreal, and brought the book into the real world. Watching my character speaks was amazing. The engineers and myself added the music, sound effects and theatre scores. The new millennial generation want experiences to be vibrant, diverse, engaging, and interactive. Listening to one person narrate for 22 hours can be exhausting. In the past, audiobook listeners have been a very particular audience and demographics. I believe that will change, and I'd like to be ahead of that change. With the evolution of Ipods and mp3 players and other inventions, audiobooks can be listened to while jogging, at the gym, cleaning, running errands, eating, airports, and even while working is an option for some folks. I also want to create a personal experience that the reader/listener can plug into personally. Listeners are diverse and multifaceted. So should the cast in their experience. I bring a new experience to veteran readers and invite younger listeners as well, expanding into a different kind of audiobook market, combining sound effects, multi-cast actors, special effects, a great story, and sound quality into a different and unforgettable experience. To see what I mean, feel free to download or listen to the first chapter for free here. Invisible Enemy: Black Fox AudioBook Free Chapter


Thanks for stopping by!

My pleasure, Mary! Anytime. Thank you for taking the time to interview me.


ABOUT THE BOOK

There is a secret that will bring America to its knees. In The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox, Reporter Dorian Valentine discovers the horrific truth regarding the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (a critical peace agreement between the former Soviet Union and the United States): One side is cheating, and even worse - the cheating side holds the ultimate trump card. Brutally trained from birth to live, talk, and think like Americans, foreign powers have constructed the most dangerous network of secret operatives ever known - created for the ultimate trinity: Intelligence, Espionage, and Warfare. This dynamic organization has been planted on US soil long ago by the former KGB to retrieve information at any cost, cause political catastrophe, or kill on moment’s notice. Now they are out of control, striking fear into the heart of the Pentagon. The Central Intelligence Agency assembles a powerful team of assassins that “do not exist” in an attempt to terminate an enemy that cannot be caught by any traditional methods. The Invisible Enemy grabs the reader by the arm, and casts them deep into the furious depths of intense warfare, awesome espionage, and unpredictable deceit - where there is a frightful undercover agenda that even the operatives themselves are not aware of.

Amazon: 

Nook:

Walmart:

Invisible Enemy: Black Fox trailer

The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox Audiobook trailer

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anthony R. Howard has been an industry recognized consultant and technology expert for the premier global technology firms for over 12 years. Presently he is a leading Technology Specialist for one of the world’s largest Information Technology firms where he was rated #1 IT Super Hero by InfoWorld and ComputerWorld, was the winner of the National Federal Office Systems Award (FOSE - Nation’s Largest Information Technology Exposition Serving the Government Marketplace), and the 2004 winner of Government Computer News Best New Technology Award. Several case studies have been published on Howard’s solutions across the Information Technology industry. Currently he provides enterprise technology solutions and advisement for America’s most distinguished clients including a sizeable amount of work for the U.S. Defense Sector, Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. After founding his own technology firm, Howard completed his formal education with a Masters of Business Administration with a concentration in Information Technology. His vast career has included controlling hundreds of devices worldwide from secure Network Command Centers to relocating overseas to Amsterdam, The Netherlands for more than a year to solve technology issues for American based companies. He has also worked briefly for a private military logistics corporation that contracts a sizable amount of work from the Department of Defense and other military institutions.

Author website: http://anthonyrhoward.org/


ADDITIONAL LINKS

Devil’s Diary: The Coming trailer

Facebook: Devil’s Diary: The Coming trailer

Print book: Devil’s Diary: The Coming

Barnes and Noble: Devil’s Diary: The Coming

Devil’s Diary: The Coming ebook

The Invisible Enemy II: Vendetta

Youtube Channel:

Facebook:

Goodreads:




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

COVER REVEAL: New World (Iamos Trilogy, #2) / Lyssa Chiavari

Today I'm helping reveal the cover for New World, Book Two of the Iamos Trilogy by Lyssa Chiavari! The cover was designed by Najla Qamber Designs, and features custom photos by Mosaic Stock Photography. The book releases in early 2018 from Snowy Wings Publishing. Check out the cover and learn more about the book below!


   

Title: New World (Book Two of the Iamos Trilogy) 
Author: Lyssa Chiavari 
Release date: Early 2018 
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing
MARS, 2075 C.E. Isaak has returned from Iamos, but life hasn't exactly gone back to normal. In what felt like a month to him, two years passed in the world he left behind—and now that he's home, he's not sure if he knows what home is anymore. 
Mars has become a world of riots and police states, with GSAF doing everything in their power to clamp down on the burgeoning rebellion started by Isaak's once-best friend, Henry Sandhu. It doesn't take long before he realizes that maybe coming back to Mars wasn't such a good idea. But unless they can find a way to get to the time postern—currently guarded by heavily-armed GSAF agents—Isaak is stuck in the future... and so is Nadin. 
Nadin thought that the future would hold her answers, but everything changed the moment they passed through the door. All she wants now is to return to Iamos and make sure that her partner, Ceilos, is safe. But once her identity as a native Martian gets out, she finds herself caught in a political struggle she doesn't understand, with both factions trying to win her over to their side. And when GSAF learns that Nadin holds the key to deciphering the mysterious System, they'll stop at nothing to keep her on Mars—permanently.
Add New World to your to-read list on Goodreads!