Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kings or Pawns by JJ Sherwood – Book Review

Book Title:  Kings or Pawns: The Kings (Book I) by J.J. Sherwood
Category:  Adult fiction, 383 pages
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Silver Helm Publishing
Release date:  October 2015

Synopsis:
8,994 P.E.—The elven city of Elvorium has become corrupted to the core by politics. With his father dead and the Royal Schism at his back, Prince Hairem ascends the throne as king of the elven world on Sevrigel. Young and bold, Hairem is determined to undo the council’s power, but the brutal murders by an assassin loosed within the city threaten to undermine the king’s ambitions.
As corruption and death threaten to tear Elvorium apart from within, the warlord Saebellus threatens the city from without, laying siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem finds himself in a dangerous political balance between peace and all out war.
 




Review:

Damn! That was a good book! (And I rarely ever start my reviews like this!)
Kings or Pawns by JJ Sherwood is the first instalment in the Steps of Power series. And what a start!

The novel deals with Hairem, who has ascended the throne after his father's passing, and who has to deal with a council of corrupt members, all working on their personal gains and away from the needs of their respective elven realms.

There is also the army general Jikun, whom we see as a bit selfish but nonetheless skilled and who at least has an idea about the duties of his role as a general and the sacrifices he has to make.

Moreover, there is the general's captain Navon, who dabbles in necromancy, despite his general's orders and despite there being a death penalty for such a practice. I particularly liked Navon's character: cynical, funny, wise and above all kind and loyal.

I also loved and enjoyed Sherwood's ability in creating her settings, which is made clear from the beginning of the novel.

There is character development – for good or worse – for various characters in the novel, including King Hairem, General Jikun and others. I also loved Alvena, a mute handmaid with a surprising role to play. She and Navon were my favourites in the novel.

Basically every character in Kings or Pawns has a role to play. No characters are redundant; those who come and go like messengers are not given names as they are not important. The author is lauded for that.

"The temperature in Darival had fallen with the sun, who had also, it seemed, taken her blanket of clouds with her."

Kings or Pawns had me thinking throughout and occasionally wondering if some characters were not as they appear. It also grabbed my interest towards the politics of running a country, albeit a fantastical ones, and had me wondering what happens when a good leader is surrounded by corrupt ones.

It is going to take me sometime to shake off the brilliant political intrigue and storytelling.

"Unlike the palace treasury, [the personal finances] of the council members were filling up like a halfling's pockets in a treasure trove."

I also liked the theme of entitlement throughout Kings or Pawns, which is seen in many characters but particularly the council members.

There are also several songs and poems in the novel, highlighting Sherwood's ability in writing both prose and poetry equally well.

The word flow throughout the whole book is exceptional. You don't want to miss a beat, even when things are calm and we're just given a description of place.

Kings or Pawns is fast paced and will probably keep you reading up all day and night as it did me. There might be some nail biting especially towards the second half of the book.

I would definitely love to pick up the second book in the Steps of Power series, but I need to get some sleep first!

My review is part of the August-long Steps of Power blog tour. I wanted so badly to go through the posts but did not want to come up on any spoilers. Check out the full tour here, which includes artwork, interviews, other reviews and more.


About the Author:

J.J. Sherwood lives in Ohio with her husband and four near-identical cats. Her childhood was spent tearing through the woods, playing out fantasy worlds, and tying Barbie to the roof so that the Power Rangers might rescue her. Middle and high school carried on this roleplaying, while college encompassed creating and refining over 250 characters in the world of Aersadore. When not orchestrating the lives and deaths of the people of Aersadore, JJ’s hobbies include drawing, video gaming, wearing a bathrobe, and eating too many baked potatoes.

​Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook   Goodreads


Buy the book:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble

Note: I received a free copy of Kings or Pawns from the author in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sleeping Train - Poem



Darkness surrounds,
Worry abounds,
No snow,
But bone-chilling cold
Lurks in the vicinity

Hoodie-covered,
Sweater-hidden
Men and women
On a sleeping train

But who is truly sleeping?

The train stops,
Some get up and wonder
"Are we there yet?"
"It's too early to stop,
Still 8 hours to go!"

Several trains pass us by.
Hands shake,
Shoulders shiver.

The cold seeps in,
Threatening to break our sleep,
Or dormant strength.

Sounds from the next door cabin
Spell noise
For the already restless and wandering mind.

Eyes once too sleepy,
Now awake,
Searching,
Studying,
Calculating,
Jumping from side to side
Looking for answers.

The heater seems to have died,
Or the cold has won the fight,
A fight the sleepers are unaware of.

The night grows darker
And we are standing still.
Where? I know not.

My mind won't dim tonight,
Not at least until we're moving again.

Then I'll begin my own battle
With the cold,
Under a hoodie and a blanket
That are no match
For the cold seeping into my bones.

Written 26 January 2016
At 1:41 am

On a train from Cairo to Luxor



train-at-night (via greenlanternpress.wordpress.com)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Takhayyal writing prompt no. 43: Earth & Fire

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen, Artists, Poets, Writers, Authors, Dreamers, Friends and Family; Welcome EVERYONE to Nadaness In Motion's bi-weekly picture-prompt writing challenge Takhayyal.

I wonder what your muses will bring to the page with this picture...

Author unknown. Image found via Pinterest.



Arabic for Imagine, Takhayyal is a challenge for writers of all ages and genres; a place to spark creativity and explore new genres.
Your post can be in English or Arabic, prose, poetry, short story, flash fiction; you name it and write it.

General rules:
·        No nudity, violence, and/or abuse.
·        Leave the link to your post in comments below OR post your piece as REPLY to this post
·        Your piece MUST be inspired in some way or other by the above picture
·        Multiple entries allowed
·        It is not required but it is a nice and encouraging gesture to comment on others' pieces.
·        Feel free to add your Twitter handle (@....) so I can tag you in my tweets!

Let's IMAGINE!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Benjamin’s Field Trilogy by J. J. Knights - Guest Post & Tour

Today, I'm featuring author J. J. Knights, his Benjamin’s Field Trilogy and a guest post on researching for the books.


Blurbs

Book One: Rescue

Forward by retired NASA astronaut Jay Apt, PhD, veteran of four space shuttle missions.

Benjamin’s Field: Rescue’ has been awarded a five-star review by the literary site ‘Reader’s Favorite’ (www.readersfavorite.com).


Benjamin’s Field follows a rural farm family over the course of sixty years from the viewpoint of the youngest member, Jeremy Kyner. Beginning with America’s entry into World War I, Jeremy and his family are followed through war, peace, triumph, tragedy, heartbreak, and final happiness as the reader examines the role of family loyalty versus individual need, personal liberty and how it relates to society’s demands, religious prejudice, racism, intolerance, the role of charity, and the overwhelming need for humans to forgive one another.

While still in manuscript form, Benjamin’s Field, Book One, Rescue, was advanced to the “Best Sellers Chart” of the peer review website www.YouWriteOn.com. In Book One, Rescue, a widowed farmer suffers an unspeakable loss during World War I. Burdened with grief, he learns from his nemesis, a dogmatic Catholic priest, that his son’s fiancée has given birth to their crippled child.

Unable to cope with the child’s deformity and confounded by his illegitimate birth, the farmer is battered by those closest to him with accusations of cruelty and intolerance until he finally reveals his true feelings and the reasons underlying his apparent bigotry. Set in a historical context, Benjamin’s Field is a compelling story about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving tale will take the reader on an emotional and sometimes humorous journey.”


Book Two: Ascent

In Book Two, Ascent, Jeremy Kyner, now a teenaged boy, becomes the focus of his teacher’s animosity because of his infirmity. With the help of two dedicated school friends and an unconventional Jewish blacksmith, he takes to the sky, defeating his teacher’s plans to institutionalize him and forcing her to divulge her own, dark, secret.

Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving story will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.


Book Three: Emancipation

Emancipation opens as America is on the cusp of World War II. Jeremy Kyner, now a man, is barred from military service at a time when America is almost defenseless against marauding German submarines. Finally joining a group of volunteer civilian pilots that represents the country’s best hope to counter the Germans, Jeremy confronts a deadly enemy from an unexpected quarter and is offered a chance of achieving final emancipation.

Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving novel will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.



Find the series on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/series/166271

About the Author
J. J. Knights is a retired FBI Special Agent. His assignments included violent crimes and fugitives, property crimes, civil rights investigations, and foreign counterintelligence. He was a surveillance pilot, SWAT sniper, media representative, and worked in the FBI's technical investigations program. Knights also volunteered as a Civil Air Patrol pilot, squadron commander and public information officer. He is an emeritus member of the Imperial Public Relations Committee of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children. A native of New England, Knights resides in southwestern Pennsylvania with his wife and honeybees. He has authored several published articles on law enforcement recruiting. Benjamin's Field is his first novel.


Researching for Benjamin’s Field – Guest Post by J. J. Knights



          Since Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel, I did a great deal of research.  The Internet has made this chore much easier and economical (no need to travel to distant libraries, etc.), so I did much of the research online.  However, I also used real books.  Some I borrowed.  Some I purchased.  Actually, I enjoyed the research and found it very educational even if much of what I found didn’t make it into the story.
          I also spoke with subject matter experts, among them priests, a Catholic sister, an expert on canon law, a Freemason, a retired orthopaedic surgeon, a rabbi, a representative of Shriners Hospitals for Children, and an expert on the history of rail travel in western Pennsylvania.  I even took advantage of my own family genealogist and put my great, great grandfather, a Canadian sea captain, in the story, though I changed his role and place in the historical timeline.  I thanked all of them in the Acknowledgements.
          I was very careful to make the story as historically accurate as possible, but sometimes I had to tweak history for the sake of the story.  For example, In Book Two, Ascent, I have Jeremy Kyner, the protagonist, attending the 1932 Cleveland Air Show.  The airshow took place in August of that year.  I moved it to September for reasons explained in the Afterward.
          How important is historical accuracy to credibility?  I suppose this is subjective, but I’d say it’s very important.  Why should someone take what I’m saying seriously if I can’t get the facts right?  For instance, I wanted to refer to actual newspaper headlines and stories in Book One, Rescue.  I have Benjamin Kyner, the protagonist, reading that America had declared war against Germany in the April 6, 1917 edition of the old Pittsburgh Press.  I was able to quote the paper exactly thanks to the assistance I received from the Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh. The staff put me on to an online source for digitized newspapers going back to the 19th century.
          Depicting historical events accurately was very instrumental in amplifying the plot and themes.  A main theme in Benjamin’s Field is overcoming prejudice and intolerance.  In the previous paragraph, I spoke about using actual headlines from real newspapers from the period.  So, in the same issue of The Pittsburgh Press, we see Benjamin’s son, Francis, reading glorified front-page reports of courageous aviators.  A bit later, Hiram Bolt, Benjamin’s African American hired hand, picks up the paper and notices that stories about Black military units are buried in the back pages.
          So, accurately depicted relevant historical events are very important to the themes in the story.
          To instruct seriously and well, one must be a bit of an entertainer.  If not, you will lose your audience, be they university students, student pilots, or readers who can easily put your book down and pick up someone else’s.
          Imagine sitting in church or some other place of worship, a university classroom or some similar place.  If the priest, minister, rabbi, professor  or whomever simply stands there and drones on, you’ll fall asleep.  On the other hand, if he or she moves about in front of you and injects drama and humor into the sermon, they’ve got you.  We’ve all had boring teachers.
          In the case of writing a story like Benjamin’s Field, I used intensely emotional scenes and drama tempered with comic relief to keep the reader engaged, but not overwhelmed.  Humor is necessary to relieve the pressure created by the drama and emotion.  You don’t want the reader to feel bludgeoned.
          In Book One, Rescue, Benjamin, the protagonist, and the priest Templeman, have issues to resolve, so I put them in a very emotional, soul-baring encounter.  The pressure builds until Benjamin’s hired hand, Hiram, appears unexpectedly with a one-liner that will cause the reader to smile or laugh.
          The reader must also be able to relate to what the character is experiencing.  That’s why I put the characters in highly charged situations that we’ve all experienced or at lease can understand.
          For instance, throughout history, there have always been young men who terrified their parents by saying, “The country is at war. I’m joining the army.” It’s been said in different languages and accents, but it’s been said since humans have walked the earth. My brother and I did it to my parents and my son did it to my wife and I.  Even if it hasn’t happened to you, you can still relate to it.
          This, and much more, happens in the story.




Author Links:  WebsiteTwitter | Facebook 

Exclusive to Amazon

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Up in the Treehouse by K.K. Allen - Excerpt

Up in the Treehouse
by K.K. Allen
Publication date: 19 July, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Synopsis:
I wanted to tell him all my secrets, but he became one of them instead.

Chloe Rivers never thought she would keep secrets from her best friend. Then again, she never imagined she would fall in love with him either. When she finally reveals her feelings, rejection shatters her, rendering her vulnerable and sending her straight into the destructive arms of the wrong guy.

Gavin Rhodes never saw the betrayal coming. It crushes him. Chloe has always been his forbidden fantasy–sweet, tempting, and beautiful. But when the opportunity finally presents itself, he makes the biggest mistake of all and denies her.

Now it’s too late . . .

Four years after a devastating tragedy, Chloe and Gavin’s world’s collide and they find their lives entangling once again. Haunted by the past, they are forced to come to terms with all that has transpired to find the peace they deserve. Except they can’t seem to get near each other without combatting an intense emotional connection that brings them right back to where it all started . . . their childhood treehouse.

Chloe still holds her secrets close, but this time she isn’t the only one with something to hide. Can their deep-rooted connection survive the destruction of innocence?

(Note about content: Some sexy time and light swearing)




Excerpt from Up in the Treehouse


My entire body ached the moment I tried to move, so I stopped trying. I groaned and peeled an eye open, trying to understand why this morning felt so different from all the others.
When I saw the matching sets of green eyeballs peering over the ladder, one glaring and one questioning, I wanted to scream, but the air in my throat went the other direction. I gasped and propelled myself backward into the furthest corner of the alcove.
“Do you think she's homeless?” asked Eyeballs Number One.
Eyeballs Number Two shook his head as he scanned my body. “Maybe she ran away from home.”
“Yeah, or maybe she's a troll that lives in the woods. Are we supposed to feed her?”
“I didn't bring any food. Did you?”
One of the boys threw his eyes around the room, as if afraid to look away from me for long. “No. We should tell dad we need a fridge.”
“And how will we keep it cold, moron?”
“Hey! I'm not a moron!”
While the boys fought, I managed to creep forward until I gripped the edge of the bed with every intention to slip down undetected.
But Eyeballs Number One saw me and placed an arm out across the other boy’s body. “Shh. She's moving.”
My grogginess cleared, replaced by a rush of adrenaline as I stared back at the twin boys—the boys whose treehouse I’d snuck into the night before. At this realization, I straightened with a jolt. “I-I have to get home.” Panic seized my chest knowing my parents would be frantic looking for me.
Eyeballs Number Two nudged the other. “She has a home, bro.”
I bit my lip to hide my smile, happy they no longer considered me a possible troll. “Sorry. I didn't mean to—” I didn't know why I was about to lie, so I stopped myself. I totally meant to fall asleep there. I just didn't mean to get caught.
“Wait!” one of them called as I headed for the ladder. I turned to see the curious one staring back at me with a sincere expression. “Are you okay?”
All I could do was nod. How could I tell two boys I didn't know the reason for invading their sanctuary—that I had been watching them for weeks, envious of their home in the woods? Instead of saying another word, I found the ladder and moved down it, missing the last few steps in my haste. The moment I hit the ground, I accepted the impact with a grimace and took off at a sprint through the woods and toward my bedroom window. I climbed inside just as I heard my mom calling me for breakfast. 






Wondering what the playlist for Up in the Treehouse by K.K. Allen? Check it out here.

Add the book on Goodreads

K.K. Allen is also reducing the price of Up in the Treehouse to $1.99 from 19-21 August.

GIVEAWAY

As part of the book blitz, there is a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card. Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Purchase Up In the Tree House via Amazon, B&N, or iTunes.




About the Author:

K.K. Allen is the author of Contemporary Fantasy and New Adult Romance stories. She loves manatees, learned to swim for the mere purpose of pretending she was a mermaid, and adores the beach so much she promises to one day live on one (in a tent if she has to) in Hawaii and serve shaved ice on the side of the road.
K.K.'s Summer Solstice series (The Summer Solstice Enchanted, The Equinox, and The Descendants) are now available for individual sale or as a complete trilogy!
Her short story, Soaring, is available for FREE. K.K.'s upcoming New Adult Romance, Up in the Treehouse is set to release on 19 July, 2016.

See below on how to keep up to date on new releases!

Connect with the Author:



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Invitation Accepted – Poem



I hear you calling to me,
Your turquoise water
Seducing me,
Moving ever so lightly,
Begging me to kick off my slippers
And dive in!

I long for you too.
The winter months
Are too long,
Too cold,
Too harsh.

But the hue of your water,
It washes it all away,
Soaking me in summer.

Your waves come so close,
Teasing my toes...

The wait is over.


I accept your invitation.



Photo credit: Nada Adel Sobhi
Taken at Egypt's North Coast - km 88



Written Tuesday, 9 August, 2016 in Egypt's North Coast.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Takhayyal writing prompt no. 42

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen, Artists, Poets, Writers, Authors, Dreamers, Friends and Family; Welcome EVERYONE to Nadaness In Motion's bi-weekly picture-prompt writing challenge Takhayyal.

A dark piece this time. I wonder what it would inspire you to write! Can't wait!







Arabic for Imagine, Takhayyal is a challenge for writers of all ages and genres; a place to spark creativity and explore new genres.
Your post can be in English or Arabic, prose, poetry, short story, flash fiction; you name it and write it.

General rules:
·        No nudity, violence, and/or abuse.
·        Leave the link to your post in comments below OR post your piece as REPLY to this post
·        Your piece MUST be inspired in some way or other by the above picture
·        Multiple entries allowed
·        It is not required but it is a nice and encouraging gesture to comment on others' pieces.
·        Feel free to add your Twitter handle (@....) so I can tag you in my tweets!

Let's IMAGINE!