Book Review – A Piece of Sky

A Piece of Sky by Ann Hunter

This delightful, scrumptious re-imagining of Chicken Little is one of the best pieces of magical fiction I’ve ever read. I don’t say that lightly.

I met my dear friend Ann Hunter at a meeting of like-minded authors a few years ago. She has seen me at my best… and my worst, and she still thinks I’m cool, which I will always love her for.

Her book, A PIECE OF SKY, caught my eye when we were in a booth together at Salt Lake Comic Con…. I mean, it’s gorgeous, but I didn’t buy it. I remember her being super excited that JoBe Cerny (THEE Pillsbury Doughboy) recorded the audio version of the book. I thought that was so very cool to hear, and my heck, I have some really cool author friends. But…… I had a lot of projects happening and didn’t listen to it.

We ran into each other at other various events and still I didn’t buy her book. Why? I was busy with finishing up my series and a myriad of other excuses. And I tend to shy away from reading things my friends write, a principle I am repeatedly breaking lately, because curiosity has bitten me (and they are all so brilliant).

Then Ann did something I didn’t expect, she contacted me this past fall asking to buy my trilogy. How awesome! Of course I wasn’t about to tell her no. I met her on the side of the freeway, like some illegal drug deal, and gave her my books. She later chastised me – I completely forgot to sign them.

This last month, at Salt Lake FanX, I got the privilege to team with her again in our fantasy author booth. And there sat that little book, staring at me with a cute, chicken eye. But I still didn’t buy it. WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME?! I planned to, but yet again, it was another busy con and everything was packed by the time I returned to the booth. Ann also told me that Vivatera, MY VIVATERA, was the next in line for her book club read on for her newsletter. I was so touched.

I tell you all these facts to illustrate my bad character and highlight Ann’s thoughtful gesture, one that I couldn’t shake. I have a very strong community of author support, and I have always been there encouraging their creativity and success, but I wasn’t prepared when someone wanted to help me.

So….. in-between books and adding a boring commute, I decided to look what I could get on my Audible. A strange remembrance sparked in my brain and I looked up A PIECE OF SKY. and WHAT? It was only $5. I immediately downloaded it.

And with my long explanation, here is my review…

I loved it. Loved is not a strong enough word for it. It wrapped its arms around me, seeped into my soul and enveloped every fiber with its magic. And I found myself in awe, still struck with the fact that this is Chicken Little… CHICKEN LITTLE! And I was so in love with it that I didn’t want to stop listening. It was joy, pure joy to experience it in audio form. But, the book is just as illuminating, with the different playful fonts illustrating the story for you.

Ros is your Little Red Hen, who gets struck with a golden acorn, fallen from the God Oak – the Tree of Life. And she knew, from the moment it struck her, that this was something special – not an acorn, but a piece of sky! .

Ann brings in such a strong, magical core to the story I found myself scratching my head at how she came up with such wonder in a story about a chicken. The imagery is absolutely beautiful and enchanting, the characters are so lovely, and it still follows the formula you would expect in Chicken Little, taking the acorn to the dog, a mare, a fox, a kelpy, and then to a griffin, cause…. MAGIC!

I laughed out loud several times, and may have shed a tear at the end. And the points of the book, the parts that keep rolling around in my brain, are these:

  • How great acts can come from the smallest things.
  • How having faith in yourself and belief that what you are doing is important, can make you stronger than you ever imagined.
  • …And last, that there is a piece of sky in all of us – the potential to grow and be what we dream of being.

Bravo Ann! Truly beautiful work. 

You can DOWNLOAD A Piece of Sky for FREE on Instafreebie right here:

A PIECE OF SKY BY ANN HUNTER

Book Review – Storm Front (Harry Dresden #1)

Last year at Salt Lake Comic Con 2015, I had the privilege of attending a panel with some talented authors like Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, R.A. Salvatore and James Owens. And I was so excited to hear, with my own ears, what one of my writing influences, me being a small time author, had to say… that’s right… Terry Brooks!!!

Cool authors being cool. Jim Butcher is second in – Terry Brooks is at the end. Another cool author Aly Grauer at the end of the question line

 

But seeing Terry is cool, but what about these other authors? I knew of them, and I really liked what they had to say during the panel. I walked back on the con floor and saw the signing line wrap all the way down the aisle for this Jim Butcher guy. Of course, I’d HEARD of Harry Dresden, but figured it’s a guy read. Right? Probably a “Richard Castle” type of read that really doesn’t interest a fantasy girl like me.

A year past – A FULL YEAR – a very busy, hard year of writing, editing, and growing as an author. Finally, the moment I turned in the FINAL edit of my FINAL book in my fantasy series, I thought it was time to start reading again. But, oh, what a dry spell. I feel like I haven’t read in ages. The pile of books had grown so high I felt overwhelmed with where to start.

This is when friends and recommendations come in. An author friend of mine, Ben Ireland, listed Harry Dresden as one of his biggest influences. I knew this already, so when I asked him if he had recommendations for something to read, he nearly screamed, “READ HARRY DRESDEN!”

Okay, universe, I guess I should have listened last year, when my curiositystorm front piqued. So, I went into this blind, not really knowing anything about the stories, only with recommendations and word of mouth.

My answer to the universe, “I wish I would have read this sooner.”

“My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. I’m a wizard. I work out of an office in midtown Chicago. As far as I know, I’m the only openly practicing professional wizard in the country. You can find me in the yellow pages, under “Wizards.” Believe it or not, I’m the only one there. My ad looks like this:

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment

You’d be surprised how many people call just to ask me if I’m serious.”
Jim Butcher (Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1))

I must fall for wizards, because Harry Dresden is as bad-ass wizard as you can get. I’ve grown up with Potter, but I’m an adult now and I’m so glad I found Dresden.

Fiction for me needs to have elements of the fantastical. Take Harry Dresden – unabashed wizard, barely scraping by on solving unexplained cases for the Chicago Police. Me, a fan of Castle and Limitless, caught on rather quickly to the story’s energy and format. Intrigued by the supernatural quality and charmed by Dresden himself, I slowly found I was falling in love with this book. It’s witty, smart, visual, laugh out-loud funny, and an all-around great read.

But the thing I picked up the most, and this is the writer in me, is the wordplay in which Butcher used to explain the world and its characters. His eyes were the green of well-worn dollar bills. This line struck me, a clever wordplay and simple description that completely encapsulating everything I needed to know about this baddie. The language was fresh and easy, and the magic wrapped around me, sweeping me away in this fun nod to a detective noir.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Tequila?” I asked him, skeptically. “Are you sure on that one? I thought the base for a love potion was supposed to be champagne.”
“Champagne, tequila, what’s the difference, so long as it’ll lower her inhibitions?” Bob said.
“Uh. I’m thinking it’s going to get us a, um, sleazier result.”

Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.

Santa is a much bigger and more powerful faery than Toot, and I don’t know his true name anyway. You’d never see me trying to nab Saint Nick in a magic circle even if I did. I don’t think anyone has stones that big.

This book is fun. Plain and simple. It was the little things that delighted me. The sweats and the cowboy boots, the situational comedy with the love potion and the demon and Harry not wearing a stitch, the beloved Toot Toot the fairy, and my favorite – naughty, inappropriate Bob the skull. This book did not pretend to be anything other than a good time. And, though I tend to lean toward YA, it was refreshing to read something Adult, something with legs and arms and confidence, something without angst, and to say this, something with a little spice.

Now I understand the line that wrapped around the aisle at Comic Con. I wished I would have paid more attention to Butcher’s advice.

Book Review – Kingdom City: Resurrection

KC

Kingdom City: Resurrection

by Ben Ireland

Back in February, I had the privilege of eating waffles and frites with Ben Ireland at the LTUE Writers Symposium. As a friend, I wanted to know more about his writing style and complicated mind. We share space in the Fantasy Anthology MOMENTS IN MILLENNIA, but his gentle story FAIRYKIN did not prepare me for the action-packed adrenaline high I would receive with KINGDOM CITY: RESURRECTION.

This book is a lot of fun! It read like anime, like I was reading Miyazaki or binge-watching Full Metal Alchemist – so visual in description I could see it when I closed my eyes. It’s Urban, Dystopian, Super-Hero Action, Horror, Zombie lit – all packed into one series. But at its core, it is tender – about love and trust amid a world in chaos.

A terrorist attack buries most of the police force, including the Chief of Police, killing them all – six months later they all return with no memory of what happened. Now the mystery of what happens begins to be reveals in intense layered action.

Awesome. And the sequence of events after kept me awake at night, effecting my dreams, until I got up and finished the book.

Characters rule RESURRECTION. Plenty of rich, complex characters, sub-cultured within their surrounding mountain city, where no one leaves or questions, just co-exist.

I love that the main character is a bad-ass chick, Autumn Stevens, Kingdom City’s Whisper, which makes her the toughest ninja assassin on the planet – total Linda Hamilton type from Terminator 2. I’m all in for tough women leads. Her hollowness at the beginning grasps me with both hands. I was immediately drawn to her. She only bugged me when she was too motherly. Me, “Stop worrying about their veggies and go kill some bad guys.” But, how can she help it? She’s there to protect her family in every way – EVERY WAY.

Really enjoyed the pace. It’s sliced into scenes, revealing like a graphic novel, so the reader gets more of the plot than the players. I love reads like this. When the story wound back to the planning in the gymnasium, I thought of screaming at the characters, blowing the whole plot… “Listen, guys, stop talking about it. The city is in riots. There are hostages. Stop being so smart and go ninja kick them in the face!”

The tone and emotion is vital to the story. Through out there is a crafted balance of emotion is every scene, playing delicately with the environment, so to not overwhelm the reader, which is not easy for a writer to do.

RESURRECTION is really fun. If you like high-intensity thrillers, this won’t disappoint you.

And I want to thank Ben for introducing me to his intense style of writing, helping me understand a little more of how he thinks. And a gentle reminder that he still owes me that Hot Cocoa.

Book Review – Salt and Storm By Kendall Kulper

salt and storm

So, I’m kinda heartsick right now. I feel alive with magic, yet pained by it, just as the author says.

Salt and Storm is elegantly written, with woven imagery in every memory and trinket, every thrum and tremor. I felt the salt spray, the sand in my toes, the wicked wind whip around me. I felt it all, and yes, I too wanted to be the witch of Prince Island. I was very impressed with how fresh this book was to read. Set in later 1800s I expected the language to be thick like Elizabeth Gaskell, but it was young and spirited and easy to get lost in.

I found that this tale was not so much about young love and heartache, but the relationship we have mother to daughter and the legacy we leave for those who will follow us. The whales spoke to me as well, and I listened to their song, and thought for sure the whale would mend Avery, and I still hope it can. This book is good for bother mothers and daughters, telling possibly, a different story depending on where you are in life. Me having young girls can see with hindsight the disconnected relationship between Avery and her mother, but young teenage girls might pull toward the spirited freedom Avery sought.

The love story, as simple as Kulper wrote it, had entwined a mystery that left me aching to know more. That is the only reason I could not give this 5 stars – I believed too much in the magic, both whale magic and island tattoos, and thought magic would resolve my heart and heal it. But a good book makes me feel and ache when it is finished. I wished I could see more or understand more about Tane’s magic, the island he left and the images draw in his sketchbook.

A beautifully written story with a simple, elegant delivery. Very clean, laced with important messages any girl could relate to.

Reviewers – An Author’s BFF

Honey Lemon and one of my favorite fans – Daniela

Whenever you meet authors at conferences or conventions, what is one thing we always say, besides the heart-felt THANK YOU? I think it goes something like this:

“I hope you love it. And here’s my card and information, so you can follow what I’m doing. If you can, write a review. I’d love to know what you think.”

I like to take time and thank those who invest in me as an author. I couldn’t be more sincere in my appreciation for choosing my series over the sea of other authors – and I mean every word. As crazy as this sounds, I didn’t start in this business to sell books, but to create art and find readers and keep them coming back. However, selling is the inevitability, or authors will cease to exist. Books are art, a creative expression and collaboration, but they are also a business, and artists like myself are losing.

There is a price with selling, and not just the cost of the book. I’ve said many times that authors are the worst at selling their books. Unless they have a knock-out elevator pitch, they frankly know too much about the story. Where should we start? What would grab their attention? What part would they like most? I think they’d like all the parts. And like Tommy Boy, we inevitably, kill the sale.

So, when I have someone interested, and I know they will absolutely love it, and YES, they bought a book – it’s a celebration. I have a new best friend, a fan, and they are so precious to me.

Many of my readers I meet at cons or author events, where I’m present to sign their books and talk with the readers one-on-one. Many are teens and aspiring writers. I love that interaction. I’d never trade it.

12039499_10101364253906231_2632341432076338814_nBut, here is the problem that I have, it doesn’t translate to sales on Amazon.

Amazon is a juggernaut, driving sales of our products and controlling a lot of what we can do as authors. The truth is we have to play the Amazon game in order to show PROOF we are a validated author. The main way on Amazon to prove our validity is through reviews. If someone buys my book on Amazon, an email will be generated and asks for a customer review. If you buy an ebook, it’s an easy click to review and you’re done.

So, as much as I love meeting and talking with readers, it doesn’t turn my rating on Amazon.

Amazon is so big that a small fish like me is not going to matter that much to them. I am in the invisible bottom-feeding ocean, along with the other creative creatures that flounder, making their own way to survive. I’ve been swimming in the ratings around hundreds of thousands for a while, until I learned a few secrets. There is a magic number of reviews, if you didn’t know, that needs to be met in order for Amazon to pay attention to you. Once you hit that number Amazon is like, “Hey, this might make us money. Let’s pair it with this and see if we can get more hits?” Do you get those emails or bottom scrolls that show you this? It’s a game of numbers. As an author, I have zero control over this. It’s completely in reviewers’ hands.

Goodreads, owned by Amazon, has become a good friend. Readers love networking with other readers and authors- it’s a symbiotic relationship existing in an internet realm all about books. Several of my readers are a part of this world as well and celebrate their thoughts in this cyber-community. But, I’m having the same kind of breakdown with my readers, not because of the cultivation, but because of the age – several of my readers are not on Goodreads or Amazon, because, candidly, they are not old enough.

Isn’t that a funny conundrum?

There are other ways to break the Amazon code, but several I don’t have control over. Sell a lot in one day, Amazon pays attention. Kindle-Unlimited is an amazing tool if you have control of your books. Setting up a FREE book through them could spike your rating to INFINITY, but being with a small press, I don’t have that freedom or control either. There are so many circumstantial variations to this game, what works for some, doesn’t always work for others. Nothing is going to work the same for everyone, so please don’t hurry and run out and sign up for these programs thinking you’ll be an overnight success. But what I am coming to understand is my limitations with control when it comes to Amazon – you have to play or you drown.

So, I’ve come up with a plan…

As a reward for finishing the hardest book I’ve ever written, my third and concluding novel to my series, EVERSTAR, I thought about rewarding myself. I wanted an art piece, something I could frame and display in my home, a reminder of this staggering accomplishment. I contacted Khai Vinh of Ghost Illustrations.com and commissioned a painting of my world. What he came up with is beyond stunning. He drew for me Southwick, the southern most point and the capital in my world of Parbraven. He captured it at the most pivotal point in the series, simply put – at the end. The artwork is full of secrets only a fan would notice and I decided that this couldn’t be just for me, this needs to be shared.

And this is where all of you come in.

I’m giving a print of this beautiful painting exclusively to those who place a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It seriously is something I’m so proud of and special to me. To share it with you makes me all warm inside. I had a parent post for her son, who loved my books, but didn’t have an amazon account, so it’s still possible if you want your kids to have some wall art in their room.

Click here: WRITE A REVIEW

This link will take you to my page where you can fill out your name, email, and where you posted. I’ll follow up and send you one of these posters FREE! I’ll even sign it if you like. I’m looking for honest reviews, of course. Fives stars are wonderful, but I know that my book is not everyone’s taste. Readers needs to know if this book is for them. This is my THANK YOU for taking your time and sharing your thoughts on my art.

Authors need you. Regardless of where you bought the book, reviews are IMPORTANT. They are an essential part of a delicate author ecosystem, like algae to coral reef, a sustainable resource that can keep us creating, producing, and gifted back to you. The only way we survive in such a huge ocean is with a little help from our friends – you, our readers.