Cindy's Treasury of Good Tales

Finding the best tales of any genre

Cindy's Treasury of Good Tales

Book Review: Waterwight by Laurel McHargue

July 1st, 2016 · No Comments · Book Review, Fantasy, Five Star, Young Adult

waterwightI’ve finished Laurel McHargue’s Waterwight. What a fun read!! I found this gem on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

After a catastrophe only known as “the Event”, Celeste escapes from a home for orphans with little to no memory of what happened to her parents. Determined to learn the truth, Celeste embarks on an adventure to save what’s left of the world from an ever-growing ocean of toxic ooze. Guided by a mountain spirit and befriended by a giant, flying frog, Celeste must learn how to live in this changed world devoid of adults where children have started getting supernatural powers. Hunted by a murderous shape-shifter, will Celeste uncover the mystery behind the ooze before the rest of the world is overcome?

Strengths

I thought this was such a creative take on a post-apocalyptic world. I’m not sure I’ve ever read one where the children were the only survivors. Throw in supernatural powers and you’ve got a really interesting story. I think the characters were well-developed; my favorite is Orville, the French, flying frog. Who knew a frog could be so overwhelmingly charming?? I am dying to know how his story continues in the next book!

The supernatural powers that start manifesting in the children are so cool and varied. Mind reading, flying, invisibility, time-stopping, visions, super-strength…I could go on.

A huge strength to this book is the driving mystery. Where did this ooze come from? What exactly happened during the Event and what caused it? There’s a dreamlike quality throughout that makes the book feel very magical.

Weaknesses

There were times when the traveling of various characters got a bit tedious. Celeste has to fly across the ocean a couple of times and I think those parts could have been sped up or condensed further. But otherwise there weren’t many weaknesses!

Conclusion

This is a definite must read! Especially for the YA or middle school audience. Fun characters with superpowers and fast-moving, interesting plot, this is a book you won’t want to miss!

5 stars

 

Laurel loves to hear from her readers! Contact her on Book Club Reading List or on Facebook

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Author Interview: Laurel McHargue

June 20th, 2016 · No Comments · Author Interview

Laurel McHargue

Laurel is the author of Waterwight (review coming soon) and “Miss?”. Both titles can be found on Book Club Reading List.

How did you come up with the idea for Waterwight?

I woke from a dream (on my Mum’s 86th birthday) in which I was running away from bad guys and had to fly across a large body of water. Halfway across, I started to fall. A flying frog came out of nowhere and said, “Grab hold!” I did, and he got me safely to the other side of the water and then died in my arms! I shared that dream with a friend and she said, “Oh my gosh! You HAVE to write a story about that!” The rest poured out of me!

Who is your favorite character? Why?

I’d have to say Orville is my favorite character because not only is “he” the one who inspired the whole story, his evolution in the story continues to fascinate me. I’m not done with him yet! There will be more challenges for him in the rest of the series. I can’t give away any more!

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

I used the names of real people (mostly children) I know or met while writing Book I, and in most cases, I used the superpowers they told me they’d want as inspiration for scenes.

What made you want to write in this genre?

I coached high school writing groups for several years while I was teaching English and after I left teaching, several of my students were writing fantasy adventure. I thought I might try the genre “someday,” but it was the dream and my friend’s suggestion that pushed the “DO IT NOW” button in my brain! I plan to write in as many genres as possible over the course of my lifetime because each one presents a unique challenge, and I do love challenges!

Did you have to do any research for Waterwight? What kind?

I did some basic research on the characteristics of the different animals you’ll encounter in Waterwight because I didn’t want anyone to say, “They don’t do that!” Of course, I didn’t find any evidence that frogs fly, but the stuff I DID find out about frogs really helped me to describe many of the scenes in which Orville plays a key role.

What can you tell us about your plans for the sequel? How long until book 2?

I’m working on the sequel now and have told people it will be done by the end of this year. YIKES! I have a lot of work to do, especially since I’m working on several other books at the same time. By the time you publish this interview, “Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters” should be available! But I’m really excited about the new world the Waterwight characters will have to explore in books II and III, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to deliver on my due date.

Tell us about your journey to becoming an author. Where have you found the most success or difficulty?

I’ve been our family storyteller since I was a youngster, and my friends would tell me I should write books. I journaled through my high school years, but didn’t keep it up regularly while I was in the Army and raising children. I started journaling again during my first year of teaching 7th grade English in a difficult school because I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing each day, and those journals provided the details for my first novel—“Miss?”—which is a loosely fictionalized account of that year.

I’m still working on the “success” aspect of writing (in terms of being able to make a living), but I do believe I’ve been greatly successful because of the feedback I get from my readers! There’s nothing more rewarding (well, I suppose money would add to the “reward”!) than having total strangers tell you they couldn’t put your book down.

The difficult part is in establishing the workday routine. As an Indie author, you’ve got to make writing your full time job. If I didn’t have a spouse with a job that paid the bills, I don’t believe I’d make that time for myself, so I consider myself to be very fortunate. My dream is to tell him someday, “You can retire now, darlin’! I’ll pay the bills!” (At least I have a pretty good record of crazy dreams!)

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Make writing your full time job. And don’t wait to find an agent! Publish yourself, and get your work out there!

Thank you, Laurel! Readers, watch for my review of Waterwight coming soon!

Laurel loves to hear from her readers! Contact her on Book Club Reading List

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Cover reveal: Waterwight by Laurel McHargue

June 14th, 2016 · No Comments · Cover Reveal

waterwight

I’m so excited for my next book! I’ve read Laurel McHargue’s work before and I love her writing style. I know Waterwight is going to be a winner! Waterwight can be found on Book Club Reading List.

“Mustn’t. Just mustn’t. Now run along and be a good girl like the others . . .”

But the protagonist in Waterwight isn’t like the others. She’s done with being shunned by those who refuse to discuss “The Event,” the global catastrophe that changed the planet, left them orphans, and continues to pose a threat to frightened survivors.

Celeste has been troubled by bizarre dreams and nightmares while living in the children’s home, and shortly after running away one night in search of answers, she questions her sanity when it appears she can communicate with animals. Delighted in other evolving powers, especially her ability to fly, she nevertheless questions a mysterious mountain spirit’s challenge that she must find the key to stopping the water–a silvery-pink, stinking ooze that destroys everything in its path.

But Celeste has no idea how to do it or why she’s the one who must find the answer.

She also doesn’t know why a wicked shapeshifter wants to kill her.

A flying frog, Orville, saves her from certain death and becomes her guardian as she navigates to a village of superstitious survivors on the other side of “the big water.” There, she finds other young people with emerging superpowers; they are kept isolated and in fear, though, by one old lady who disciplines the survivors.

Meanwhile, the planet continues to change in horrible ways.

Although Old Man Massive tells her she must hide her true identity, he also reminds her to “never forget who you are.” Celeste must discover who she is to save the planet.

Waterwight: Book I of the Waterwight Series is the first book in a new fantasy adventure series. If you’re looking for a fantastical escape from reality, a fun, fast read for vacation, a new novel for advanced grade school readers, a little mystery and a lot of suspense—then Waterwight just might be for you! The novel is complete with an extensive synonym glossary, foreign language translations (there’s some French, Spanish, and one Japanese word) and questions for discussion.

KIRKUS REVIEWS calls Waterwight “. . . powerfully spooky, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. . . . ”

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Book Review: Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu

May 16th, 2016 · No Comments · Book Review, Crime Fiction, Four Star, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Four ways to pharaoh KhufuJust finished Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu! This adventure tale is by Alexander Marmer and can be found on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

Michael has dreamed of visiting the Egyptian pyramids since he was a child. On his first day in the country touring the Great Pyramid, he meets a dying German engineer who claims to have been poisoned. After giving Michael a business card for his daughter and a small notebook, his last words are “find four ways.” Michael begins an adventure beyond his wildest dreams, attempting to recover a stolen ancient stele, decode the dying man’s final words, and find the final resting place of the great Pharaoh Khufu. He is accompanied by the German’s daughter, Anna, and together they try to unravel the mystery surrounding her father’s death.

Strengths

This was a very well-written (and well-edited) book. That’s not to say I didn’t find a few typos, but obvious care went into the writing and research of this book. There is SO much fascinating history about Egypt and the pyramids included in this story! I learned more than I thought I’d ever know about Egypt in a single read.

The story line was exciting and full of action. I liked the main characters, Michael and Anna, and enjoyed going on the adventure with them.

Weaknesses

The main weakness for me–which may not be seen as a weakness by someone else–was simply the length of this book. Clocking in at 363 pages, I feel like the same story could be told at two-thirds the length. There were times when I simply couldn’t keep up with the complicated theories the characters uncovered about the pyramids. You almost need a larger base of knowledge about Egypt before starting the book to fully appreciate everything. The extent of my knowledge about Egypt comes from middle and high school history classes, so I’d say it’s pretty limited. By having such complicated and intricate sub-plots, the audience can become bored or feel alienated for not understanding.

Conclusion

It’s obvious an incredible amount of time and thought went into researching for this book. The characters go on a great adventure, survive car chases and murder attempts, recover an ancient artifact, and discover long-held secrets. I love the journey Michael goes on–he’s definitely my favorite character. My girly side wished there was a little more romance to the story; it’s totally set up for Michael and Anna to fall in love, but nothing really happens except mention that they steal glances at each other. And I wish the story was condensed a bit, more focused. I think this is a book that fans of crime fiction or books like The DaVinci Code would love. If that sounds like you go check this one out!!

4 out of 5 stars

 

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Author Interview: Alexander Marmer

May 9th, 2016 · No Comments · Author Interview

Alexander MarmerHere’s my interview with Alexander Marmer, author of Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu, a novel I found on Book Club Reading List.

How did you come up with the idea for Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu?

I’ve always been fascinated by Egypt. Egypt and the pyramids always mesmerized me, the Great Pyramid in particular. I always knew there were more mysteries to the Great Pyramid than what we learned about in school and in numerous books about Egypt. The meeting of Anatoly Vasiliev, who devoted more than 40 years of his life studying and analyzing the Great Pyramid, back in 1996 in Moscow, cardinally changed my perspective about the Great Pyramid’s constructive methods and inspired me to write this book.

Who is your favorite character?

Michael Doyle. In some ways he is like me. I always assumed that Michael is a more adventurous version of me with much bigger ambitions and determination.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Some of the characters are totally based on real people. For example, Michael Doyle is the “unrealized” version of me. The character of Kirilov in the book is almost identical to the real-life World War II veteran whom I had the honor of meeting in 1996 in Moscow. The other characters were products of my imagination and “collective” images and traits of a several real-life people.

Describe your writing process.

I started writing the book back in 2007 and was writing it on and off for a long 7 years. While I was writing my first novel I held a full time job in the police department and at the same time was in the US Army National Guard. In addition I also had a family and two kids. To find free time was hard, but somehow I managed to find time to write, typically on a commuter train to/from work or during a free time on my two deployments overseas.

Who are some authors who have influenced you?

Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes adventures! I grew up on these adventures, reading and re-reading them over and over again.
Agatha Christie and her two detectives Ms Marple and Hercule Poirot.
Alexandre Dumas and his “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers.”
Robert Louis Stevenson and his “Treasure island.”
William Shakespeare and his “The taming of the Shrew.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald and his “The Great Gatsby.”
Dan Brown and his eminent “The Da Vinci Code” inspired me to write my own novel. Dan Brown’s widespread use of trivia facts throughout the entire novel made his book for me the most enjoyable piece of reading material I’ve ever read.

What made you want to become an author?Four ways to pharaoh Khufu

Mystery and adventure have always being a part of my DNA and lifestyle. I was always intrigued by the stories of the hidden treasures, sunken ships, etc. I always dreamed that one day the opportunity would arise and I would go to some remote jungle, desert or under the ocean and participate in the treasure-seeking expedition. Well, I’m still hoping that this day will still come, but in the meantime I decided to use my imagination and mentally travel to those remote places and go on the treasure hunt. That’s why I wrote my first novel.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Keep on writing – don’t give up! I know a bunch of unrealized and unpublished authors because they could never finish their manuscripts. I know that by publishing my book I have already inspired at least three “hung up” authors who “resurrected” their unfinished manuscripts and got back in the writing chair.

Thank you Alexander! Watch for my review of Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu coming soon!

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Cover reveal: Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu

May 3rd, 2016 · No Comments · Cover Reveal

Four ways to pharaoh KhufuUp next I’ll be reading Alexander Marmer’s Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu. I started reading last night and I think it’s gonna be a good one! I found this tale on Book Club Reading List.

Michael, a US Army Iraqi War veteran, is touring the Great Pyramid when he discovers a stranger dying inside the glorious Grand Gallery. With his last breaths, the stranger claims that he has been poisoned; pulling out a small notebook and cryptically whispering, “Find four ways.”

Michael’s adventurous spirit and determination to discover the truth turns into a life-changing quest. Despite being mercilessly chased across two continents by the descendants of a sect of elite ancient warriors, he persists in his mission. In the process, Michael discovers one of the greatest deceptions by the most powerful and influential pharaoh in the whole of Egypt’s history.

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Book Review: Downburst by Katie Robison

March 29th, 2016 · 3 Comments · Book Review, Five Star, Young Adult

downburst-coverI just finished reading Katie Robison’s Downburst. Readers, this was an AWESOME book! I can’t wait to tell you more. I found this read on the Cheap eBooks reading list.

Synopsis

Kit is a girl who has run away from home. She is making a meager living by delivering illicit goods (drugs, fake ids, etc) to their buyers. One day, when the cops discover their location, she goes on the run, spending her first night in an empty train car. The next morning, she witnesses the murder of a girl who looks so similar to Kit she could be her twin. As she runs away, she is kidnapped by a man who mistakes her for the girl who was murdered (named Aura) and is taken to a bizarre week-long summer camp. Since staying at camp seems safer than running from the cops, Kit decides to play along and be Aura. Assuming a new identity turns out to be harder than she thought it would be, especially since her fellow campers seem to have supernatural abilities: they can fly–er, windwalk. Can Kit fit in with her surroundings and survive the week? Or will she be discovered as an impostor and tortured as a spy?

Strengths

Wow, this book was awesome! And I don’t say that very often. This book was described as something that “fans of the Hunger Games will love” and I agree. It is fast-paced with a fascinating undercurrent of supernatural, Native American mythology and a plot that keeps the reader guessing. Each time I had a theory on what was going to happen, further reading repeatedly proved me wrong. There wasn’t a single moment in the book where I was bored, which has not happened to me in a very long time.

Kit is a great character who experiences a lot of personal growth throughout her story. It was fun to witness. There were several other supporting characters that I became attached to and emotionally invested in their well-being. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I very nearly cried couple times and my heart definitely broke once.

Weaknesses

The only weakness is that I didn’t have the sequel in my hands when I finished!! I’ve gotta get on that…

Conclusion

I would probably categorize Downburst as a YA action/fantasy. If you like mythology-inspired books like Percy Jackson, you’ll love Downburst. If you like action-packed survivalist books like Hunger Games, you’ll like Downburst. If you like YA, you’ll like Downburst. Why am I still writing?? Do yourself a favor and go read Downburst!! You’ll love it.

An easy 5 stars

 

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Author Interview: Katie Robison

March 25th, 2016 · 2 Comments · Author Interview

Katie RobisonKatie Robison is the author of the action-packed novel Downburst, which I found on Cheap eBooks.

How did you come up with the idea for Downburst?

I was actively brainstorming ideas for a new book. I knew I wanted a unique paranormal/ fantasy element, and I came up with a concept at the same time that I was reading a book of Maori stories. This prompted me to develop my fantasy element by weaving in various Native mythologies, which has been one of the most rewarding parts of this project.

Who is your favorite character?

This is a hard one. I really admire Kit, especially how she grows as a character over the course of the series. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Rye. (My very favorite character doesn’t appear until book two.)

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

I based the descriptions for my main characters on real people (I write better if I have a picture in mind, which is why I always visit and/or research the places I’m writing about), but in terms of personality, the characters pretty much came to life on their own.

Describe your writing process.

Before I do any writing, I do a lot of brainstorming and outlining so I have a clear picture of the entire book (or series, in this case). If I have any specific scenes or pieces of dialogue in my mind, I’ll jot them down so I don’t forget them. Then I go to work on the first draft. Generally, I write linearly, but sometimes I’ll jump around if I’m stuck. There’s definitely an organic element to this process, where I’ll generate ideas as I’m writing, and this is why the outline is important. I allow myself to incorporate these new ideas (usually, they improve the story), but the outline keeps me from getting off track and losing sight of the big picture. Once I’ve got a draft, I’ll let it sit for a bit then come back to it and note any inconsistencies or other things that need to be fixed. After a little revising, I’ll send the manuscript to my critique partners. What follows is a process of getting feedback, making changes, getting more feedback, and making more changes until I feel like the plot is airtight. I finish by checking for typos and other small errors and polishing things at the sentence-level. Then we’re ready for publication.

Who are some authors who have influenced you?downburst-cover

I have a lot of influences, but I think I can pinpoint my love of beautifully plotted adventure stories to Alexandre Dumas and my fascination with flawed characters to Edith Wharton. For Downburst in particular, I decided to switch to first-person present tense, which I’d never used before, after reading Suzanne Collins. For this type of story, it worked a lot better to have a restricted point of view, and the present tense lent the narrative a kind of urgency that helped to build suspense.

What made you want to become an author?

I don’t think there was any one event that made me want to be an author. I’ve just always known I wanted to write, and I’ve been coming up with stories since I was a kid.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Embrace writing as a process. You won’t get it right with your first draft, but that’s okay! (I threw away my first version of Downburst, killed off my main character, and started over.) The more you revise and rework, the better the story—and your writing—will become.

On a related note, be humble enough to solicit and accept feedback, but don’t feel like you need to submit your work to a committee. Relying on a few trusted and qualified critique partners, who are passionate about your story, is sufficient.

Thank you, Katie!! Readers, I am well on my way in Downburst and I can tell you–this is a high quality book. Stay tuned for my review, coming in a few days!

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Cover Reveal: Downburst

March 23rd, 2016 · No Comments · Cover Reveal

downburst-coverI’m so excited to get started on this adventurous tale! I found Downburst on Cheap eBooks.

Orphaned at a young age, Kit has always been an outsider in her small Minnesota town. So when disaster strikes her foster family, she crosses the border and runs away to Winnipeg. But city life isn’t what she imagined, and she quickly finds herself on the wrong side of the tracks—and the law. Things go from bad to worse when Kit sells a fake I.D. to a girl who could almost be her twin and then inadvertently witnesses the girl’s murder. Before she can get out of town, she’s mistaken for the girl and abducted by a mysterious group of people who take her to a secluded camp in the Canadian wilderness. That’s when Kit discovers that her bad luck is only just beginning.

Fans of The Hunger Games will devour this “thrilling head-rush of an adventure” (Kirkus Reviews).

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Book Review: For Love of Anna

February 19th, 2016 · No Comments · Book Review, Four Star, General Fiction

For Love of AnnaI found For Love of Anna on the Cheap eBooks reading list. James Lawless’s book is an interesting blend of genres: romance, political thriller, revolutionary (not exactly a genre, but you get the idea).

Synopsis

Guido Van Thool is a student at the university studying philosophy. He is close friends with Phillippe, a leader in the anarchist movement. He meets and falls in love with Anna, a beautiful ballerina who does not support Guido’s involvement with the anarchists. She thinks it’s too dangerous. After celebrating the new year, Guido and Anna walk home from a club and are hit by a car driven by a drunk, powerful, and corrupt judge, Jeremiah Delahyde. Guido is determined to prove Delahyde’s guilt and corruption, driven by his desire for justice after the life-changing injuries inflicted on Anna.

Strengths

The relationship between Guido and Anna is beautifully developed. The pacing for the story is quite slow, the author taking time to notice details and let the reader get a comprehensive taste of the main characters. When Anna was hit by the car, I felt genuine anxiety over her well-being. For a moment I even decided that if she died I would hate the book, for what was the purpose of making me care about her and Guido if they could not be together? It seemed unnecessarily cruel. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but suffice it to say I did NOT hate the book, regardless of what may or may not have happened to Anna.

The judge was a poignant reminder of how powerless I feel sometimes about things in the world or my life that I cannot change, despite how much I want to or how unjust they are. I think Guido was remarkably patient and intelligent in how he exacts his revenge–er, justice.

Weaknesses

I wish the book had been a touch shorter, or that the pace was sped up a little. I found myself skimming entire pages because nothing was happening. The setting was a touch confusing; I still cannot tell you exactly what time period or country this story takes place in. If I had to guess, it would be near Russia and close to present day.

Also, the book is in dire need of another edit or proofread. Simple mechanical issues, like errant quotation marks or oddly-placed commas, drove me nuts. I was influenced by the specific digital copy that I read, a pdf file that changed fonts in seemingly random places. I finally determined that anytime there was an apostrophe or quotation mark, the font changed. This was highly annoying, tempting me at the beginning not to even start reading because the pages looked so unpolished. If I were to go back in time and start over, I would have insisted on reading either a hard copy or find a digital copy that had been formatted correctly. It’s amazing how visually influenced we are. If something looks beautiful, we are more likely to think well of it.

Conclusion

Despite the mechanical and formatting issues, this was a good story. The pacing could have been a little quicker and the setting a little clearer, but the three main characters (Guido, Anna, and Judge Delahyde) are well-developed and interact with each other in intelligent ways. If you like reading stories about political revolutions, you’ll enjoy this one!

4 out of 5 stars

 

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