Message to Reader: Alessandra from Italy

I received a message from Alessandra from Italy through my website, but there was no email address included so that I could respond directly. Instead, I’m responding here.

Hello, Alessandra! I hope you see this blog post. First of all, thanks for reading Anatomy of a Darkened Heart! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. I love the Victorian period too, and learning more and more about it to write the Dark Victoriana Collection has been fascinating.

I don’t know of any short stories or books centered around or dealing with Gothic mirrors, but I’m sure there must be some good ones out there. Readers of my blog: if you happen to know of any works that include Gothic mirrors, please comment down below for Alessandra. She would love to know of any suggestions you might have. I’ll also comment below if I come across anything myself.

Thanks for your message, Alessandra, and I hope you see this blog post!

Review: Train Girl: A Short Story

Train Girl: A Short Story
Train Girl: A Short Story by Kristina Rienzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fast-paced with constant forward movement, Train Girl is a short story I finished very quickly. I couldn’t stop reading it! The author chose a way of telling it that classically means the reader has no idea which direction the story will go in because there are so many options: a mysterious stranger who seems to know exactly what will happen to the main character in the near future. There are tons of different directions an author could take, so I couldn’t predict anything ahead of time. I guessed that the stranger would be correct in his predictions, but to what end? And would he be involved in the things he predicted? Would his telling her the future cause the main character to follow his predictions or break them?

When you think you know where the story has gone, Rienzi takes it in a totally different direction. She whips you out of your, “Ah, now I’ve got it” state of mind and throws you into a scenario you couldn’t guess. Then, when you immediately think you know where it’s gone, she takes it in yet another direction. I’m a great lover of unpredictability and it’s hard to surprise me, but this short story did take me by surprise, especially for how short it is!

I’ll definitely be reading more of Rienzi’s work in the future.

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Review: Danny Boyle and the Ghosts of Ireland

Danny Boyle and the Ghosts of Ireland
Danny Boyle and the Ghosts of Ireland by William Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*This book was supplied to me by Audiobook Reviewer. This review was originally published on ABR’s website.*

Action, adventure, mythology, ghosts, a foreign land – this book has it all! A great read for middle grade kids, Danny Boyle and the Ghosts of Ireland (the second book with this adventure-seeking character) captures the reader’s attention from the beginning, when author William Graham sets up his unusual and enjoyable interpretation of ghosts and what they spend their time doing. There are good ghosts and harmful ghosts, ghosts who choose to stay in ballrooms where they had the time of their lives before they passed away. The explanation of these different types of ghosts, their purposes, and their interactions was my favorite part of the book since it was quite different from other descriptions.

As usual in Graham’s Danny Boyle series, learning is scattered throughout, from learning about parts of Ireland to learning new words. Included also are ethical practices that Danny and his sister, Melinda, use when taking the things they need to complete their quest from various creatures of myth. I thought this was a nice spin on the typical bloody confrontations heroes engage in to steal these necessary items, which is done in similar situations by many authors. Fantasy and paranormal elements mix together to create a fun and exciting story parents can enjoy right along with their kids.

I looked very hard to find pieces of the story Graham forgot to resolve, since there were a lot of loose ends to tie up, but he covered everything. My only real complaint is that some situations in which Danny and Melinda needed to take or steal something from mythical beings in order to complete their quest were accomplished too quickly and easily, especially for the mermaid part (no spoilers!). However, I have to repeat that the way they went about taking these things was, in most cases, a good lesson for children.

Patte Shaughnessy pulls off a great Irish accent and gets into the spirit of the piece very well. She’s easy to understand and convincingly captures the wonder of a young person experiencing a new adventure. I certainly enjoyed listening to her reading, and I think kids would feel the same.

This was a very fun book overall and it’s a great gift to get kids into listening to audiobooks. I’m looking forward to the next adventure Danny Boyle will experience!

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Review: Haven Lost

Haven Lost
Haven Lost by Josh de Lioncourt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*This book was supplied to me by Audiobook Reviewer. This review was originally published on ABR’s website.*

I don’t have any easy time finding fantasy books I like. I’ve read many bestseller fantasy authors and I haven’t cared for any of them. I find it’s best to read indie author fantasy, but I was still looking for something epic, a long journey into another world.

I finally found it.

Haven Lost is perfection in every way, ranging from its excellent pacing to its thorough explorations of not just a world but cities that are opposites. I didn’t find anything a far stretch because de Lioncourt is always careful to explain why or how something makes sense, and yet he crafts it so that it feels like part of the story, not like an author trying to explain something to his readers. I liked the main character, Emily, who is very strong but has her weaknesses. She’s not impossibly perfect and she’s no cookie-cutter character. Her allies – and enemies – are the same.

By the time the book ended, I felt as if I had been on an adventure with the characters. It was as if I had endured everything right alongside them, and when I looked back at all we’d come through, I didn’t know how de Lioncourt did it so beautifully. I never once felt the story drag. There was constant movement of the plot and advancement of our understanding of the world. De Lioncourt’s pacing moves the story at a pace that feels realistic, not so fast that I wanted more time in any scene, and not so slow that I wanted the book to move forward. It was simply…perfect!

The voice talent, Reay Kaplan, was excellent. She spoke very clearly, performed the accents accurately, and maintained a sense of excitement where it was appropriate. She even sounded teary in a couple of places that called for it. I would say I’d rather listen to the audiobook a second time than read the book in paperback, simply because I felt Kaplan enhanced the reading experience.

Haven Lost is a fantastic read for both fantasy beginners (it eases you into the fantasy part in a way that isn’t harsh or ridiculous) and those who know the genre well. I would recommend it to anyone, and I can’t wait for the second book!

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Review: Grandmother Mælkevejen’s Belly: A Novelette of the Lodhuven

Grandmother Mælkevejen's Belly: A Novelette of the Lodhuven
Grandmother Mælkevejen’s Belly: A Novelette of the Lodhuven by C.S. MacCath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*This book was supplied to me by Audiobook Reviewer. This review was originally published on ABR’s website.*

Have you ever thought about the universe and its past and future from the perspective of…well…the universe? Grandmother Mælkevejen’s Belly endeavors to do just that by personifying planets, scientific theories, and other intangible things – at least that’s how I interpreted it.

I would classify this as literary science fiction, and it’s not an easy read. In fact, I read it twice and still couldn’t understand everything that was going on. But the fact is, I wanted to, and I’ll probably listen several more times in an attempt to fully grasp the whole story. I’m not a huge science fiction reader, so that could also contribute to my lack of understanding. Though difficult to picture as more than players on a stage (this would make a fantastic play), the personification of Eros and other legends is quite well done. In only 55 minutes, C.S. MacCath is able to bring several storylines together, even getting through a romance subplot, and she does it well. I found myself interested in each character’s relevance and background, and I think a full-length novel version of this book would actually end up being even more successful than this extremely succinct version; there was just so much to cover that I was left wanting a more expansive version of the book to help me deepen – and lengthen – my experience with this audiobook.

The author read this book, and I always find that to be a wonderful experience, even if the author isn’t necessarily an actor. The biggest critique I’ve found about MacCath’s reading of this book is that she read it too fast. While that’s true and you need to pay close attention at all times, it also belies her passion and excitement for what she’s written. I felt excited about the storyline because she was excited, and that’s a bonus in my book.

In conclusion, if you’re into science fiction and especially space-related fiction, this is a book you should check out. If not, there’s a 50/50 chance it won’t be for you. I think the author’s excitement alone makes it worth a listen.

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Review: The Killer Net

The Killer Net
The Killer Net by Matthew W Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*This book was supplied to me by Audiobook Reviewer. This review was originally published on ABR’s website.*

Remember when the Internet was still new, when the potential dangers of Internet dating were practically unknown? This book won’t let you forget. In fact, Matthew W. Grant’s The Killer Net will make you realize just how close you are to killers on the Net.
I liked the concept of this book, especially since it takes place before the Internet became a “must”, and it was still a bit new. The opening sequence shows us how the serial killer was bred, which is a powerful prelude to the rest of the story. The first murder was a bit confusing – I had to rewind and listen again to make sure a murder had actually taken place. Many of the murders were very suspenseful, though, more so as the book went on and the girls being attacked became smarter.

Sometimes the main female character was frustrating or acted in a way that didn’t seem realistic. I found her character to be inconsistent to a certain degree, and I also found some dialogue in general to be stilted and cliched. The killer, however, was well written and I thought all his moves, motives, and strategies were consistent and suitably clever. He was not infallible, he was believable, and we got to see some of his reasoning from his own POV, which was very enjoyable. I also thought I had the killer pegged from the beginning, but Grant does a fantastic job making various males in the story seem like the murderer to the point that I really wasn’t sure who it was.

The audio talent, Jeannie Lin, has moments of perfection, like when she reads the part of the travel agent. I have never heard such great acting that really sounded not only just like the character was described, but incorporated things like the sounds of the character talking while her mouth is full. That sounds gross, but it wasn’t, it sounded absolutely perfect. I couldn’t get over how well that was done. I do wish the whole recording had been done with that amount of commitment and excellence. There are parts, even during action sequences, when the narrator sounds bored, which detracts from the excitement. The main thing that bothered me was the production quality. There were times when the voice was quiet and others when suddenly it was so loud it hurt. Even when a character is supposed to be screaming, it’s common practice to adjust the volume in the recording so the listener’s ears aren’t blown out. Unfortunately that wasn’t done here, and that made it literally painful at times. I did appreciate the sounds, like email bleeps, that were inserted into the story to give it an almost movie-like feel.

All in all, I think this book is worth a listen, especially if you like mysteries and some gore or anything about serial killers. And pay special attention to the small part with the travel agent – so well done!

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Review: The Distant Sound of Violence

The Distant Sound of Violence
The Distant Sound of Violence by Jason Greensides
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I expected great things from this book, and my expectations were met and then blown away. This is not your typical contemporary fiction read – it’s much better. You can look forward to literary intelligence, mystery, social critique, and constant ambiance. It’s very difficult to predict where the plot and subplots are going, so I found myself on the edge of my seat throughout. There’s so much to talk about that I feel the need to use bullet points:

– The author has a way of making you feel very close to characters you can’t necessarily relate to. This can cause an uncomfortable feeling at times – sometimes you’re glad you can’t relate to them because there’s something disturbing about them – but that’s what comes of good writing. He draws the reader into each character and their particular plight with no tricks, awkwardness, or “author talking”. Just subtle and nonchalant use of POV and in-character, natural-feeling thought processes.

– The main narrator is not an unreliable narrator, but he says things about the future in very carefully phrased ways that make you think you know what’s going to happen to some degree. That narration leads the reader down the wrong path every time, not because the narrator isn’t honest, but because he is careful not to give anything away at all. Every time this happened, I thought, “But didn’t he say that…” and I was wrong. It was phrased so as to just tell you what you need to know and nothing more. I came to my own conclusions based on that “future talk”, but he didn’t actually lead me in the wrong direction. That really kept me on my toes.

– The ending is something you can’t guess, and it’s really an amazing perspective-changer. I can’t say too much on this point, but it really makes the reader look at things from multiple angles of how everything in each person’s life could have been completely different if only this one important fact had been known over a decade earlier. This alone makes the whole book a fantastic book club read because of the discussion it spurs.

– The social critique doesn’t bludgeon you, it’s weaved into the story in many, many ways, some of which are of some enormity and some of which are very specific and pointed. The amount and the angles of social critique in this book are more discussion points that I would love to talk about in a book group.

– The narrator doesn’t work to separate the reader from the story, even as he guides you along on the journey. Sometimes he just serves to refocus you, sometimes he zooms in on something in particular, but in all cases it’s done smoothly and effortlessly. He always feels like a character, not like the author telling you what to focus on.

– If you’re looking for symbolism and metaphors, TDSOV offers that as well. From a figurine to the weather, the author makes sure everything works to bring meaning to the story. Words aren’t wasted. If something is mentioned, it’s there for a purpose.

I can’t say enough about TDSOV or its author, Jason Greensides! I am eagerly awaiting his next release, which will surely be just as brilliant as this one. We’ve got a lot to look forward to from this author, and he’s just getting started.

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Book Review ~ ‘Anatomy of a Darkened Heart’ by Christie Stratos.

Wow, what an amazing review for Anatomy of a Darkened Heart! Thank you so much, Sorcha, for the fantastic 5-star review!

OldVictorianQuill

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Anatomy of a Darkened Heart by Christie Stratos
(Dark Victoriana Collection #1)
Genres: Historical, Psychological
Release Date: 18th September 2015.

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SYNOPSIS

A pair of eyes underlined in weary darkness and punctuated with a knowing stare. These are not the normal eyes of a newborn baby. Abigail Delilah is the firstborn of three Whitestone children – and she is the most regretted.

But is it really her fault?

She can’t help that the revelation of Father’s wretched secret coincides with her birth. She can’t help the fear she feels during Mother’s psychological – and physical – assaults. As the shadows grow stronger over her soul and the noose of pain tightens around her neck, Abigail will find out which is stronger: her family’s wicked assumptions about her or her true self.

Take your first step into the Dark Victoriana Collection with Anatomy of a Darkened Heart.

Multi-layered with motifs, symbolism…

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The Beautiful multi-talented #Awethor and Editor – Christie Stratos

I had a wonderful interview with the brilliant Claire Plaisted at Plaisted Publishing. Come find out more about me and lots of other excellent authors!

Plaisted Publishing House

Awethors.awethology.soonMeet the lovely #Awethor and Editor, Christie Stratos a creative young woman who loves to write and has done so since her childhood.  Christie also has her own business as an Editor which widens her creativity even more.

Christie Stratos headshot_outdoorsTell us a bit about yourself.

Thanks for doing this wonderful interview! I’m a writer and an editor, and I love doing both. One always inspires the other, so when I edit, I’m dying to write, and when I write, I think of additional ways I can help my editing clients. I love immersing myself in multiple creative endeavors, and once I get going, I forget to do everything else. Like eat.

What brought you to the world of writing?

I have written since I knew how. I’ve always loved expressing myself creatively, and it’s what I’m best at, what I’m most comfortable doing. I wrote poems when I was very young…

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