Lyrics & Curses
"Ty is a natural leader and a brilliant tactician, but according to his sister, he "wouldn't know fun if it invaded his planet."
Bear with me, this is going to be an unusually personal review.
Binge reading isn't something I do a lot of. Sure, I might push myself through a book in a day, but largely that's to meet a deadline. I'm good about staying on schedule, fitting personal reads in where I have time.. patiently waiting to get to that title I owe no obligation to, but simply.. even sometimes desperately.. want to read.
Hear me out though. Look at that face. Those eyes. Even the wound. I've been seeing it everywhere for months as the buzz for 'Aurora Burning' by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff continued to build to a fever pitch. But, I digress.
Initially, I didn't think I was interested. I read the synopsis, which came across as pretty tongue-in-cheek. I felt like it was a group I didn't really care to learn about and some kind of space drama I wasn't really intrigued by at all, which isn't to say I don't like sci-fi or fantasy hybrids. I do actually, quite a lot.
Of course, I'm on Twitter and I browse my notifications from various book industry members.. and so, I've followed Kristoff for ages. Not because I'd ever read anything he was involved in, but rather.. because I liked the way he spoke to people. To his fans. How he spoke for people. For friends and people he felt deserved more respect. Though again, I really only saw glimpses here and there and regretfully, hadn't paid as much attention as I now know I should have.
Last week I even caught him on an Instagram Q&A, discovering he's incredibly charming, pretty brilliant himself, and even funnier on video than in text. I haven't gotten to know much about Kaufman yet, but they write so seamlessly together, I'm eager to learn.
In my defense, the last several years have been very rough ones for me. I drifted away from doing almost all the things I loved, even reading. I missed the moments where many of my now favorite writers were emerging on the scene. I picked up 'Nevernight' as a cover-buy not long after it came out, it just drew me in visually and it sounded amazing. Yet, still to this day I haven't read it. I will though. As my schedule evens out, I intend to be reading a lot more from both Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.
"The Pull is more than words.
Love is a drop in the ocean of what I feel for her.
Love is a single sun in a heaven full of stars."
A few weeks ago, with Kal's face haunting my thoughts as I tried to do other things, I finally gave in. I took the first step. I went to Amazon, clicked that little 'Look Inside' option, and read the available pages from Aurora Rising. Immediately, I was hooked. I fell for Kal from the moment he appeared in the hall. I fell for Cat's smart mouth and aggressively physical nature, both of which were things I could relate to. I fell for pretty boy Tyler with his savior syndrome.. and the aloof intellects of Fin and Zila.. even the sarcastic twin sister. My heart went out to Auri.
Just a few pages of story from these authors and I was utterly lost. It wasn't the Hadfield that was adrift. It was me. I didn't get to finish that book, as obligations were in the way, but I will.. and soon. Still.. desperately I bought both of the Aurora Cycle novels.. and tried to be patient. I tried to focus on my tasks at hand, as I always do. To keep my head down and work diligently, to earn the time to read what I genuinely wanted to read.
Yeah.. that lasted exactly three days. It's a good thing I wasn't the one being interrogated.. because I am weak. Three days of working my deadlines before I tossed everything to the opposite end of my desk and began to read 'Aurora Burning.'
Here I am though. Adrift again. I feel raw. All of my insides are on my outside. At least the nerves.. and they're all screaming.. because they didn't just want to put us through the proverbial ringer, they wanted to leave us there at the end. Which is, exactly what they did. They left us hanging there.. wounded and hoping for relief.. with no real certainty we'll get it. Not after what happened in the past.
The book is brilliant. It's bloody, it's beautiful, it's sweet, and it's brutal. Sometimes, all at once.
"I know my friends, and they are few. But those few I have, I would die for."
Though I hadn't finished the first book, it was easy to pick up the second. Kaufman and Kristoff sprinkled in just enough necessary information in from its predecessor that I was able to hit the ground running. The major plot points were reminisced in a cohesive way with the current story, so that it flowed naturally.
I read this one straight through. When I couldn't keep my eyes open, I took power naps.. but I kept going. Why? Because I couldn't.. or.. wouldn't put it down. Squad 312 couldn't just walk away for awhile. How could I?
An ancient evil has been waiting, biding it's time. That's the gist of the theme. No one really knows about it but the 312 and they're not in the best position to be stopping it with everyone after them, even their own. That doesn't stop them from trying though. They don't know the meaning of the word 'quit.' And honestly, that's part of what I love about them so much. The team just has so much heart.
Auri is the only hope they have of defeating the evil that is waiting for its chance to consume everything.. and Squal 312 is her only hope of surviving to get that far. If she can't learn to master her powers, the galaxy is done. Over.
There are scenes I will never forget. Some tragic, some funny. (Oh.. that mesh top, bondage pants, and glaring Syldrathi. Amirite?)
"The practice fell out of vogue in the twenty-second century, after Terrans discovered in the twentieth that it killed you!"
"It took them two hundred years to stop doing it?"
"Isn't that insane?" "Honestly, doesn't that sound like a species that would benefit from some kind of benevolent machine overlord?"
Kaufman and Kristoff did a beautiful job of managing the pace, letting that crescendo swell as things grew more intense. The dialogue IS a bit tongue-in-cheek, but in a way that makes sense. The banter of a team that has grown so close, they're really all like siblings. They know each other's likes and dislikes, their quirks, and sometimes they say or do things just to irritate each other.
Late in the story, there's a moment for me that was more devastating than the others. A moment I felt everyone was sort of overreacting, and ignoring what they knew deep down, for an ideal. As if, everything that had come before no longer counted. And in the suffering of that moment and those to follow, I was crushed under the weight of this story.
I loved that though. These two authors can break my heart and soul to pieces again any day. And, if this book is any indication.. they probably will. Hopefully sooner, rather than later.. and "thank the Maker".. there WILL be a book three.
[TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on 'The Dark In-Between' blog tour brought to you by Xpresso Book Tours, Swoon Reads, and Elizabeth Hrib!
"...how could he know what the darkest parts of her grief looked and sounded like?"
'The Dark In-Between' by debuting author Elizabeth Hrib which follows the path of a sixteen year old accident survivor, Casey Everett, as she struggles to adapt to the changes it has wrought on her life.
Reconciling the loss of her best friend Liddy proves difficult, especially as the eyes of those around her either purposely avoid meeting her own or look on her with pity. It isn't easy it seems, becoming known as the one who survived even with the unwavering support of her other best friend and childhood crush, Evan or her aunt Karen.
Her reality seemingly affected by dark shadowy scenes, whispering voices calling her name, and her friend's screams.. she's left reeling. Then the unthinkable happens. She sees a boy fall from the sky. A fallen named Red, sent to Earth to earn his wings back by guiding her through Limbo where Liddy will remain trapped unless they can lead her out.
"..Ancient Egypt, the undead, a hilarious sidekick, a librarian who kicks ass..."
"Is this movie why you wanted to be a librarian when you were ten?"
"Maybe. I also wanted to be able to summon the dead after watching it all summer, so there's that."
I'm a sucker for a fallen angel story, sue me. I'll pick up a book with that trope nearly every time, though that doesn't mean I'll enjoy it. I still probably want to read it and see.
In this case, the story is an unorthodox one. The idea of humans and fallen guides popping in and out of Limbo to save souls.. even one specific soul.. isn't something I've come across much. As a freshman effort, it's not bad. The story is put together cleanly, there's logical progression, character development, and reveals here and there.
Though I wasn't particularly fond of Casey and couldn't relate to the reasons the characters around her seemed to like her so much, Evan had an amusingly sarcastic wit and Red certainly had emotional moments which were very moving. The two boys absolutely made it easier for me to stay interested in the book, as I wanted to know what was going to happen to them.. how things would come out. For better or worse.
"What is this..."
"..it's a friendly conversation between two people who aren't friends because one of them is a supernatural creature of mythical origin."
Limbo itself was of interesting design. I won't give you detail and ruin it for you. I'll only say the concept of how it might appear and what might be happening there was creative.
No fallen story would be complete without some heavy hitting Archangel mythos and I really liked the way the guardian design was written. I loved the transitions when invoking them and the idea of how and why they exist the ways they do. The conflict was worrisome at times and that's as it should be.
I will say, the Limbo sequences at times felt a little more like a tour than a storytelling path in such that they read more akin to formulaic sequences. I wasn't wild about that, but the scenes were intriguing, visual, and sometimes moving as well.
All in all, it was a pretty solid story. The author has a lot of room to grow and seems to have the building blocks to improve with. It's worth a read.
The Dark In-Between
Smoke and Ritual
Flipping through my copy of the Sang Magi spell book, I turned to the potion section again, desperate to understand what I was doing wrong…but all the ingredient names seemed to blur together. Not even the most sacred book of magic could help me. It was useless. I tossed it on the floor and buried my head in my hands.
A sharp pain seared between my temples and I rifled through my desk for a calming elixir. My ears tingled. Just when I thought I could finally relax, the silent comfort of my room was interrupted by a burst of frantic voices, echoing throughout the halls. This time of night was always so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. What the hell was going on out there?
Folding my wings back into my shoulders, I crept to the door and pressed my cheek against it. The brisk shuffling of feet was paired with gasps and whispers. With my ear still on the door, I reached for my hoodie and pulled it on, always careful to keep my back covered. Even with my wings hidden, two distinct black lines were etched into my shoulder blades, thick and somewhat raised like a freshly inked tattoo. The footsteps in the hall intensified, a mixture of heavy boots and pointy heels thudding against the floor with urgency. I threw open the door just as Sapphire came bumbling toward me, breathless.
“Arya! Something’s happening. Everyone’s heading toward the library. C’mon, let’s go.” She tugged at my wrist.
I let her drag me down the hall. “Hold on. Slow down. Why is everyone freaking out?” Faces full of shock and awe whipped past us.
She spun around, full stop, and faced me, almost knocking me back. “Chaos is here.”
“The god?” I couldn’t have heard her right. Maybe I drank too much of that calming elixir.
“No, the rock star. Yes, the god. We need to hurry and get in there.” Her grip tightened around my wrist as we followed the frenzied crowd toward the Library of Covens.
My heart pounded. The gods didn’t leave Elysium unless the fate of humanity depended on it. At least that was what happened the last time. The only time actually. Gray had convinced Chaos to help her fight in the Blood War against Cerberus, the guardian of the Underworld. But we were in an age of peace now. Why was he here?
Wow.. I'm not even going to waste your time building up to whether or not this book is worth reading.. it absolutely is. If you like family drama, mystery, or contemporary works with depth of any kind, you should give 'The Island Girls' by Noelle Harrison a read. Today. Seriously, the links are below.
Normally, I'm not typically into childhood centric stories about the bonds of youth. You might assume I have a chilly nature.. and to a degree you might be right. But I also grew up an only child with very few kids in my personal life at all. Mostly, I grew up around adults and a couple of other kids like me.. who were more like smaller, less experienced adults. None of us really knew how to be children.
Reading this book, I feel like that's how it was for Susannah too.. albeit for far more serious reasons.
Taking place on a remote island called Vinalhaven off the coast of Maine, the narrative alternates between a timeline between the mid-50's to mid-60's where a pair of sisters were coming of age and 2011, Susannah still lives, but Kate is now long gone.. and a young Irish palliative care nurse named Emer has arrived to help out through the end stages of her cancer.
Like Susannah and Kate, Emer is one half of a tragically broken pair. Her sister Orla, having died about a month prior also to cancer, has left her feeling guilty for not being with her at the end. So, through this commitment to Susannah, she hopes to make it up to her own sister.
What starts out as a languidly paced tale about the pitfalls of the island mindset they grew up with, turns gradually into a starkly shaded story of dreadful intuitions and trauma.
Their lives, especially once Kate becomes enthralled with a local fisherman, become a bit of a slow rolling storm. Even miles out at sea.. you can tell it's going to be devastating sooner or later.
Interestingly enough, Harrison blind-sided me with an event fairly late into the book, when I'd settled into an easy sense of security.. much like the characters in her story. I had been casually reading from the beginning, as I always do with mysteries, with a pretty decent expectation as to where it was all leading.
Mind you, some of those expectations were correct, but only the least of them and not remotely in the way I originally believed they would be.
From the event forward, my entire perspective changed. It shocked me so much that I re-read the first lines as it happened, three or four times in a row.. just stunned.
After that, I started to make logic leaps that I never would have early on in the book. My imagination even went a bit wild, admittedly.. as some of my leaps I realized quickly made no sense, though I still wondered as to the possibility of them.
Ultimately, I did understand most of what was barreling down upon me as a reader, before it happened.. but not long before and that result was far more satisfying than anything I normally experience with a title like this.
The author does a beautiful job of telling the tale through a series of letters interspersed between standard narratives told by both Susannah and Emer. And the two pairs of sisters lives almost mirror each others in a way, building an amazing foundation for the connection forming between the main characters. She elegantly sprinkles information throughout the book.. connecting more and more dots until you can see the entire painful picture she has painted.
Noelle Harrison is a writer to watch. She brought me to tears and I'm not even mad about it. She earned them. I can't wait to read more of her work.
'Prince of Never,' the first book in the Black Blood Fae series, is a story about a city girl with a special voice who happens to be the fated mate of a Fae royal cursed to die a slow, painful death.
Ever, the Prince of Air, is heir to the throne and carries the brutal Black Blood curse. When Lara falls into Faery, he's the one who finds her. Initially mistaking her for a troll or goblin of some kind, upon discovering she's human, he sets them both on a journey back to his home and his mother the Queen.
"The cold bites through gaps in shiny armor, nibbling around snug leather, but it doesn't matter; his veins are already filled with icy winter.
Why, then, does he shiver?"
In Faery apparently, finders keepers extends to people.. and as that makes her his.. despite his distaste for mortals, it's up to his court what to do with her. Unfortunately for Lara, there are others in the realm who either wish to possess her or see her dead.
I really loved the concept of the story and in the hands of a more experienced author, I could have loved it. The curse is creative, even though the trope is the common enemies-to-lovers. The magic is nothing new, but I did enjoy the composition of the fae paired with elementals.
Like the plot, the characters are a bit underdeveloped, but again.. they have all the makings of greatness.
Our dark prince is the usual broody sort (though I love them, they're my favorites).. but at least he has the excuse of being influenced by the curse, as it changes their temperments while it progresses. He's haughty, self-important, and just a bit wicked. He's prone to nearly constant dark moods, but there are moments where that softer side peeks out. He's also the most well filled-out character in the book.
Lara is.. different. She swings between charming and annoying.. between a quivering puddle of girlish fear and a raging force of stubborn determination.. all within seconds. The moment she's not being subdued in some way, she automatically starts issuing commands. She's not a two-dimensional character, she's a character that isn't defined at all.
I did love Balor and Jinn, the prince's wolfhound and steed. And his younger brother Rafael (Raff) was an adorable troublemaker with a kind heart.
"..how does one understand the cruelty of the night sky, unfathomable in its limitless blackness?"
There was a small thing that just drove me crazy on a personal level. I don't even know how to explain it to you, but instead of the usual introspective descriptions that people might use to reference themselves.. there would occasionally be moments where their words sounded far more like someone else might use to describe them.
If you asked me what color my eyes were, I'd say brown. Maybe dark brown. If you asked me to tell you about my personality, I might say I can be abrasive.
What I wouldn't say.. is that I have "mossy-green eyes"... and "a quick laugh." Nor would I refer to my own smile as sneering with those "wickedly, kissable lips." Things like that sound so strange coming from the person they're meant to describe. In part because there's a sense of emotion to them.. of admiration.. which is far more prone to someone observing them. It happened a few times in the book and everytime I grimaced.
Some of the transitions are rough too. There's one scene that literally shifts from a soft, almost dreamy question from one character.. to the narrator saying "I pull his face to mine and attack his mouth with gusto." There are definitely gaps in emotional understanding.
There's a lot of convenience to move the story along, but there were also a couple of scenes I truly enjoyed. One was a sword fight and another was an intimate evening of sorts. In the end, I'm left feeling conflicted.. but Ever (or Never, as Lara calls him.. to annoy him).. is almost enjoyable enough to almost carry the novel for me.
"This could be the reason I think of nothing else but the constellation of stars on your cheeks, wondering what other galaxies I will find billowing on your skin."
I do think Juno has a lot of potential, sheerly from a creative standpoint.. but much of her writing comes across as lacking maturity. Structurally, she knows how to get from point A to point B. She understands the building blocks of storytelling, but she could use a lot of study in language itself and the psychology of characterizations. Also, there's almost a forced feeling of an attempt at creating taglines within the work.. or built-in quotes, but the most quotable lines were elsewhere.
As I said, I'm conflicted. I didn't hate it and I didn't love it. It was all right. I wouldn't recommend it, but I'd also maybe give another title of hers a try in a few years and see if she's grown.
Brass Knuckles & Tattered Wings, Season One
This serial is written like a TV series—four novellas of 25,000 words, each with their own little storyline yet all substantiating a bigger underlying story arc and character development.
Expected release of episode 1 is in the summer of 2020.
Each new episode of the season will follow every month.
Brass Knuckles & Tattered Wings is an action-packed story that also holds a lot of humor, pokes at emotions, and looks at a new kind of vigilante hero with his heart in the right place.
What reader would enjoy this?
If you enjoyed The Equalizer, The Punisher, and Boondock Saints, then this serial is definitely for you.
After a freak accident killed his wife and son, Pritchard slipped into alcoholism to drown his sorrows at a blue-collar bar nearby to avoid the dead and empty house. But then a teenage girl asked for his help, and it turned his entire existence around.
Best Foot Forward #1 blurb
After a freak accident kills his wife and son, Pritchard slips into alcoholism at a blue-collar bar nearby to avoid the dead and empty house.
A teenage girl sometimes comes into the bar to try to get her drunkard dad to come home, but it rarely works. One day, in his intoxicated state, Pritchard accidentally trips over her scooter, and something breaks. He promises the distraught girl to pay for it, but she’s used to being lied to by drunk men. To follow through, he gives her his business card.
A few days later, she calls him out of the blue, afraid, begging for his help. Her dad has run into a card game with bad people, and the debt collectors aren’t stopping with him.
The selfless act of responding to the young girl’s plea upends his world, leaving him only one way out: A walk in life he knows well, but one he left for his wife. A life of crime.
Best foot forward, she’d always said. That was how she urged a man with a spotted past to strive to become a good man.
The only question now is whether going backward can also bring someone forward.
Unedited excerpt can be found here: https://martinsvolgart.com/best-foot-forward-excerpt/
About the Author
Martin Svolgart is 40 years old, a single dad, companion to the Rottweiler Heimdal, nature lover, amateur photographer, coffee lover, and a geek!
What fascinates Martin Svolgart the most about writing is the possibility to look into the minds of the characters during the various situations they’re put in.
In his books, you get a look into the fundamentals of a person.
What can bring out the worst in a person? What can bring out the best?
The human eye can detect 256 shades of gray. The answer to what is good and what is evil has to be explored in the balance between those extremes of individualism. Thus, his protagonists are never just good, and the antagonists are never just evil. They can even admit to themselves that they’re fucked up.
Martin Svolgart’s books thus explore what balances pull them toward being one or the other, or what can push them to change, grow, and evolve.
One thing is for sure: No matter which of his books you pick up, you’ll never find good versus evil in any clear-cut black/white fashion, and you will always find action.
Martin Svolgart is a smith by trade, but he went back to college to study some more. Psychology, among other subjects.
Where to find more: https://linktr.ee/MartinSvolgart