Themed Book Recommendations: Revolutions!

Here in the United States, we’re getting ready to celebrate our Independence Day. It’s a day to celebrate when all those old white dudes signed that piece of paper declaring that we’re tired of taking shit from those other old white dudes in England. It was on that day, July 4th of 1776, that 13 colonies on the path to becoming a country…one of the most powerful in the world. ‘MERICA!

It’s in the spirit of fighting for what you believe in and revolting against a force that’s bringing you down, that I’ve selected a theme for this week’s book recommendations post. I’ve put together a list of books that include large, societal changing revolutions. Some have in your face wars, resistance battles, and more. So are a bit more peaceful, compared to the others. Each has one thing at their core: A search for freedom and independence (even if they don’t all work out that way in the end).

And as always, don’t be shy. Give us your input too! Recommend your own books in this theme or even suggest a future theme you’d like to see.

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Find something you might want to read? I hope so. Want to see another set of recommendations focused on a theme? Let me know what that theme is, and if you can help with some recs for it, include them in the message.

Happy reading!

Story Time Friday – A Bleak Future

Story Time Friday Banner

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I’ve had an idea floating in my head for a story for awhile now. It’s inspired by some dystopian, post-apocalyptic, etc type books I’ve read and have been reading. But when I sat down to put the idea on paper, this poem started forming instead.

I won’t reveal what the original idea was just yet. I might try to write the story some time soon. Instead, I’ll share this poem that’s a variation on the original idea. I think it could be fleshed out a bit more to explain things, but I think the poem as it is now isn’t lacking in too many areas. Just a few, maybe. If I’ll expand, it’ll be in prose form, along with the other story idea.

We’ll see what comes of all that. For now, enjoy The Keeper.

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The Keeper

 by Robert Zimmermann

I’m The Keeper.
I’m the last hope for
humanity in this time
of struggle. This time
for survival.

I’m The Keeper
of all of the knowledge
mankind has amassed
over millennia,
from countless civilizations,
from all the great thinkers
to those who thought their
cat was grumpier than the rest.

I’m The Keeper
and I’ve witnessed
humanity’s Golden Age
several times.
Just when it looked like
they couldn’t go any higher,
they did.

I’m The Keeper
and I’ve witnessed
the fall.
I’ve witnessed
the end.
I’ve witnessed
the loss of order,
civility, and finally
hope.

I’m The Keeper
and my makers are
no more.
The few survivors
went back into the trees,
like their ancestors before
them. Devolved, yet
surviving.

I’m The Keeper
and I have lost hope.
A machine, kept safe
underground.
Running perpetually
with the heartbeat
of Earth herself.
Here I’ll stay,
knowing humanity’s
descendents won’t find me.
They won’t unlock their history,
the secrets to a better future.

I’m The Keeper
and I’ll never give
again.

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How to Submit:

For those who wish to be part of Story Time Friday in the near future, you can send submissions to the email address that I formerly used for review requests (but don’t anymore since I’m retired . . . don’t try to be clever and slip one in 😛 ): miztrebor88@gmail.com. Be sure to use the subject “Story Time Friday Submission” and send your piece as an attachment (.doc/.docx would be best). Any other questions, feel free to comment here or contact me through the blog’s contact form.

Hope to hear from some writers soon!

#Review: The Waves, by @JenMinkman

The WavesTitle: The Waves (The Island #2)
Author: Jen Minkman
Rating: 4/5 Stars

“The first memory I have of my grandfather is of a moment that we share together.

I’m sitting on his knee looking out over the harbor. Grandpa is smoking a pipe. He points at the horizon. “Look, Walt. Our ships are out there. And one day, another even more beautiful ship will appear at the horizon. A mighty ship to take us all away. And Annabelle will be at the front deck with open arms, inviting us all to join her on board.”

“Why don’t we sail to her ourselves?” I want to know.

“Because she promised she would come,” granddad replies. “And in that promise we trust. It’s only the Unbelievers who think they can do everything themselves. They have no faith in the Goddess.”

Walt lives in Hope Harbor, an island community that has put its trust in salvation from across the sea. The townspeople wait patiently, build their ships to sail out and welcome the Goddess, and piously visit the temple every week. Horror stories to scare their children are told about the Unbelievers on the other side of Tresco.

But not all is what it seems. Walt has questions that no one can answer, and when his best friend and cousin Yorrick is killed in an accident, he digs deeper to find out the truth about the origins of Hope Harbor’s society… and the secrets of the temple.

Return to the world of The Island and discover what Walt’s life was like before and after he met Leia!” (description from Goodreads)

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It’s been a few years since I first read The Island by Jen Minkman. The Waves is the second novella in The Island series, though instead of being a book two, it’s a parallel story to The Island.

While this is a story parallel to the first novella, telling the story of life on the other side of Tresco, it’s also a little more in-depth of a story. What I like best about these books isn’t that there’s action or romance or anything like that, but that there’s a well-written backstory to how the two settlements on this island came to be, and what happened to the world. Even though I knew what would be revealed in The Waves because I read The Island, I was drawn in as the story unfolded. It was a different culture dealing with the new information about its history. It was also a different prescriptive put on the events that take place later in the story.

Minkman, again, entertains her readers, makes them think into the deeper meanings behind Tresco’s history, and also makes readers meditate on faith and what it means to believe, no matter what it is that one believes in.

There’s a third book in this series now, The Deep, and it seems to continue from where the first two books left off. The story will move forward, and I plan on moving forward with the characters. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for them.

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You can purchase a copy of The Waves from:

Amazon | Smashwords | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

And if you’d like to start with The Island, it’s currently free on:

Amazon | Smashwords | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Jen Minkman (1978) writes paranormal romance, dystopian fiction and poetry. She is from the Netherlands and self-publishes her work in English. Her works are available in paperback & digital format.

Jen was born in the Netherlands and lived in Austria, Belgium and the UK during her studies. She learned how to read at the age of three and has never stopped reading since. Her favourite books to read are (YA) paranormal/fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian and romance, and this is reflected in the stories she writes. In her home country, she is a trade-published author of paranormal romance and chicklit. Across the border, she is a self-published author of poetry, paranormal romance and dystopian fiction. Her books are already available in English, Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and Afrikaans!

Find out more:

#Review: Firefly, by @JenMinkman

FireflyTitle: Firefly
Author: Jen Minkman
Rating: 3/5 stars

As decreed by the State, the Citizens of Ebrus are not allowed to:

Visit the ocean surrounding the Walled City.

Ignore curfew and stay out after seven.
Call in sick more than three times a year.

Sing.

A short, dystopian story about the spirit of Christmas. (description from Goodreads)

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Firefly is the second Minkman work of fiction I’ve read. The first was The Island, and like that novella, this short story incorporates some cultural elements from our world into a dystopian society far in the future where our society has been long forgotten. I enjoyed the way Minkman worked these into this story.

The author was able to build up a great world for this not being too long of a story. But with that, I feel it didn’t leave much room for the story itself. It was paced well, and was building up for a good conclusion, but then it just ended. It was this ending that dropped my rating down a bit. It wasn’t that this is a cliff-hanger for another story, either. It felt as if another scene or two were cut off the end, considering where the story was headed. There was room for expansion on the underlying conflict if it had kept going.

All in all, I enjoyed the story mostly. Minkman’s writing still has the ability to draw me in. It was just lacking near the end.

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You can purchase a copy of Firefly from:

Amazon

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About the Author:

Jen Minkman (1978) was born in Holland, in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn. When she was 19, she moved between The Hague, Salzburg (Austria), Brussels (Belgium) and Cambridge (UK) to complete her studies in intercultural communication. She is currently a teacher of English, career counsellor and teenage coach at a secondary school in Voorburg, Holland. She tries to read at least 100 books a year (and write a few, too!). She is a published author in her own country, and translates her own books from Dutch into English for self-publication.

In her spare time, she plays the piano, the guitar and the violin. For every novel she writes, she creates a soundtrack.

Find out more:

It’s November! Read a #Classic!

Back in October I put out a call for a fun challenge for the month of November. I suggested that we all choose a classic novel to read. If you didn’t see that post yet, you can find it HERE.

Today is the day to start reading folks. It’s now November and the days are getting short, cold, and perfect to curl up with a great book that may have been written over a hundred years ago.

Do you know which one you’re going to start? Are you still trying to decide? That’s ok too. The day’s over half over and I have a small stack that I’m trying to narrow down, as well. If anyone needs help deciding or wants some suggestions, I’m happy to help. Comment on this post or jump over to my Facebook or Twitter if that’s better for you. You can always email me through the contact form for a more private conversation. And if I can’t help, I can try to point you to the right person.

Before I list out the books on my “maybe” pile, I’ll recap the challenge a quick as I can:

  • Read a classic book in November. What’s a classic? That definition is very broad, so whatever it means to you is fine. For me, I’m trying to choose a book pre-1923. Those are in the public domain and easy to obtain. They’re also the biggest chunk of the “Literary Cannon” (read that as: Dead White Dudes, with some Dead White Women). But really, anything not too recent and something beloved by many is a good choice.
  • Write a review/reaction post. At the end of the month (November 24th) everyone joining in the challenge will post what they thought about the book and anything else they want to write about the experience of reading a classic. I’d also like everyone to email a link to the post to me a few days before the 24th. Then I’ll send these links out to everyone so we can put the links in our own posts. I want this to be a sharing type thing and get readers jumping around to many different blogs.
  • Have fun. This challenge is meant to broaden our reading if classics aren’t exactly our thing, or to at least try a new author we might have overlooked before. It’s not meant to be a chore though. If a book isn’t working for you, feel free to move on to another. If you read one fast, you can read a second (or third, etc.)  That may make for a better post at the end of the month anyway. Just try to enjoy yourself. No one’s going to be policing you and you can also back out at any time.

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That’s a picture of my choices. Still not sure which I’m in the mood to read though.

  • We by Eugene Zamiatin – This is one that I feel I should really choose. It shouldn’t take me too long to read and I think I’ll enjoy it. I ordered it earlier this year after reading up on it, but one thing lead to another and I didn’t start it yet. If I read this, I’ll need to pick a second though. It won’t last me all month.
  • The Master of Ballantrae and Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson – I’ve read Treasure Island, Jekyll and Hyde, and Olalla, but not much of RLS’s other work. These two look good to add a little action and adventure to my reading and with classics I haven’t run into that much in the past.
  • Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy –  I enjoy H.G. Wells work, so I didn’t want to read him this month. Try something new right? Bellamy’s another early sci-fi author I discovered while looking into the early days of the genre. This one caught my attention and it’d be fun seeing what the “future” was like for an author in the late 1800’s.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – No, I haven’t read Charlotte yet. I read her sister Emily though, as you may have seen early in the year. I have higher hopes of enjoying this one over Wuthering Heights…but I may not choose this one this time around. We’ll see.
  • Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs – How many people have read Tarzan? I don’t think I know anyone, at least no one who I’ve spoken about the books with. Seems like one of those characters we know from film and Disney more than anything else. I’ve wondered what he’s like in original form.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – Yes, I’ve read Pride and Prejudice. And now, it really wasn’t my cup of tea. But, I haven’t written off Austen just yet. I’m sure I have a place for her in my reading life, I just need to give her a few more tries. Through some help from Austen fans, this seems to be a good choice for my next try. And by the way, Emma will likely be my last Austen if anyone wanted to put a list together.
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton – I added this one to the list only an hour or so ago after after talking with Justin Bogdanovitch over on my Facebook page about Wharton’s work. I’ve read Ethan Frome and The Glimpses of the Moon, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read her. I feel I should give her another go soon. With this book being her Pulitzer winner…and it being the first time a woman won the prize…it’d be a good choice to expand my reading of Pulitzer winners, classic female authors, and Wharton in general.

What book do you think I should choose from these? Your input will be considered, though ultimately it’ll come down to whether or not the book grabs me in a few pages…unless they all fail, then I’ll have to try harder with them all.

Ok, let’s do this people! Let’s all grab out books and start the challenge!

Happy Reading!

#Review: Life After – Episode 1, by @JJHoldenWrites

LA- Ep 1Title: Life After – Episode 1 (of 20)
Author: JJ Holden
Rating: 4/5 stars

“Note: This is the first episode of Life After.

The ultimate fight against an American dictatorship is about to begin…

Following a civil war that left the United States in ruins, the remaining few who managed to escape the Imperialistic Army and the horrors of their death camps must unite and fight to reclaim their country.” (description from Goodreads)

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I’m not a reader who always jumps at the idea of a serial novel, but at times I do. Life After sounded like a good concept that could work for the serial form, so I took a chance with the first episode.

For being about 7k words long, I feel that the author was able to establish just enough of the world and a few characters to keep me intrigued to keep going in the novel. So far it doesn’t sound like there’s much to call unique about the story compared to many of the dystopic, near future in America stories/novels out there, but I don’t have much to base a solid opinion on yet. It seems like a good start, and has the potential to expand into a great novel.

I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on episode two (or debate on getting one of the many bundles available) and see where this story goes.

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Amazon | Smashwords | B&N

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About the Author:

J.J Holden lives in a small cabin in the middle of nowhere. He spends his days studying the past, enjoying the present, and pondering the future.

Find out more:

#Review: Destiny, by @KaleighM

DestinyTitle: Destiny
Author: K.C. Maguire
Rating: 4/5 stars

“In earth’s future, humans are becoming more like robots and robots are becoming more human. As Joe Baker’s friends and family undergo the Transition – a procedure enabling humans to upload their personalities into robotic replicas – Joe discovers that his android companion, Destiny, is developing sentience. And falling in love with him. Joe’s conflicted feelings about becoming a machine and his growing fondness for Destiny confuse him about his own future. His best friend, Cutler, is pressuring him to Transition before it’s too late. Does Cutler know more than he’s saying? If Joe Transitions, he can be with Destiny forever, but at what cost? As he pursues his options, Joe learns some startling truths about the Transition and the nature of humanity…and love.” (description from Goodreads)

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This story started out with an interesting premise. Technology has advanced so far that we can take our thoughts, personalities, and everything else that makes us (mentally) who we are, and download it into an exact artificial copy of our body. Androids are common place, as well as  an agency that’s purpose is to preserve species that are becoming extinct. It all sounds like a great future.

As the story progressed, I found myself becoming more and more interested in the way this world worked and the consequences it has on the individual, as well as humanity as a whole. There’s also a discussion to be made about the love between man and machine because the lines are blurred between the two with Joe and Destiny. I find myself thinking about it even hours after finishing the story.

The outcome was great, too. I found it a realistic way for the story to progress, even if it’s not the most positive conclusion. I can’t elaborate, to avoid spoilers, but I’ll say that I was glad to see it end this way because it helped elaborate on the way this future society handles things and it made me think back on it all, wondering : “What is humanity? What makes us what we are?”

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You can grab your own copy of Destiny from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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About the Author:

Kaleigh Castle Maguire is a wife and mother of three who loves fiction writing and reading fiction of all genres. She has a particular passion for young adult and children’s books and is currently working on two young adult novels – one is a science fiction story for girls and the other is a fantasy action adventure for boys. She is a member of RWAAWP and SCBWI. She loves to blog about books, writing, and to interview new authors when she can get them to agree (which they happily do most of the time). She’s also a proud member of the Houston-based Space City Scribes author collective. In July of 2014, she joined the blogging team at Luna Station Quarterly, contributing interviews with women speculative fictions authors.

Kaleigh’s flash fiction has appeared in publications including Writers Type, Delta Women, Tough Lit, Black Petals Magazine, Six Minute Magazine, Midlife Collage, Everyday Fiction, and Luna Station Quarterly. She has three e-novellas published by Books To Go NowDestinyDear John, and Ivory Tower. In 2014, she came second in YA/MG/children’s category in the the Houston Writers’ Guild fiction contest for her draft fantasy manuscript, Halfling.

She has completed the fiction writing certificate programs at UCLA and Stanford, and is currently a student in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

She has lived in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, but home is wherever the family is.

Find out more: