Coiled: A Young Adult Mythological Romance from author H. L. Burke and Uncommon Universes Press.
A healing touch. A hideous face. A looming curse.
As the ugly twin to a perfect sister, Princess Laidra lives her life in the shadows—until her parents offer her as bait for a giant serpent.
Her escape attempt leaves her shipwrecked on a secluded island with only one inhabitant: Prince Calen, who lives under a curse. If anyone looks upon him, he turns into a giant serpent. Speaking to him in the darkness, Laidra sees past the monster to Calen’s lonely soul, and she determines to free him from the magic’s hold.
But if Laidra can’t break the curse in time, Calen will become a mindless creature of scales and fangs forever.
A YA mythology/romance that retells the myth of Eros and Psyche with adventure, magic, and true love.
As soon as this book’s idea was posed, I was both excited and dubious. The Eros and Psyche story in all its iterations, whether it be East of the Sun, West of the moon, or the fairytale of the Princess and the Pig, there’s always the point I dislike: when the girl breaks her promise, looks at the guy, and bam, punishment falls. They’re always separated for the rest of the book. The story follows the girl’s quest for redemption, and no matter how awesome the guy was, we don’t see him again until the end.
So I was dubious of how Heidi might handle this story. Her guys are always charming, and I couldn’t see her separating the main characters for half the book.
First, the guy and girl are both under a mirror curse. The girl is ugly, but kind and has healing powers. Her twin sister is beautiful, but cruel. The more cruel/kind they are, the more beautiful/ugly they become.
The twin princes are also under a mirror curse. One becomes a giant serpent if anyone looks at him. The other becomes a serpent if nobody is looking at him.
There’s some interesting fine print in the mirror curses that come to light as the story goes on. The dreaded separation part isn’t as long as I feared, and is actually very logical.
The whole story has a very mythological feel, with gods and demigods roaming around and causing trouble. The story pays lots of tribute to its Greek myth roots, including sirens, gorgons, and dragons.
Ultimately I was satisfied with the way things turned out. The journey of the “bad guy” siblings turn out almost as interestingly as the heroes. And the giant serpent winds up almost endearing by the end.
If you’d like to read a fun new twist on an ancient fairytale, then grab this book. It’s heartwarming!
H. L. Burke
Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.
An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.
Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.
Today I’m participating in the Kickass Girls of YA blog hop. There’s all kinds of bloggers and prizes–click around and see what other bloggers are doing!
So often we get hung up on “what makes a strong woman”. Is it her ability to swing a sword? Is it her karate skills? Is it her ability to score head shots? (Honestly, that’s the selling point of most urban fantasy these days, and I get so tired of it.) If it’s fighting skills that define a character, then gender doesn’t matter–girl or guy can pull it off. It’s nothing special. Here’s the definition of character:
A.W. Tozer described character as “the excellence of moral beings.” As the excellence of gold is its purity and the excellence of art is its beauty, so the excellence of man is his character. Persons of character are noted for their honesty, ethics, and charity. Descriptions such as “man of principle” and “woman of integrity” are assertions of character. A lack of character is moral deficiency, and persons lacking character tend to behave dishonestly, unethically, and uncharitably.
As I sat down to ponder what makes a strong female character strong, I realized that none of these traits belong to one gender. Morals are morals across the board. So here’s ten characteristics displayed by a strong character, male or female:
Strong moral foundation. The character must be guided by strong principles, usually based on some kind of religious teaching, whether it’s Christian, Catholic, or something else. This is what motivates a hero to be a hero. It’s the line in the sand that defines Good as Good and Bad as Bad. Without this moral stance, who cares if crazy cultists open an infernal portal and summon Cthulhu? Moral relativism doesn’t hold up when mind-bending space squid are coming to devour reality.
Gentleness. It’s not breathtaking to watch somebody beat up a bunch of bad guys. What IS breathtaking is the powerful warrior caring for a child. Having power isn’t enough–the strong character must also be able to control that power.
Listening. The strong character must be a good listener, empathetic to others. Women are exceptional at empathy, but often this is overlooked in exchange for her leet katana skillz. We want our urban fantasy heroine to dice up demons! We don’t want a Doctor Who character who first seeks to understand the monster. Pff, nobody watches that Doctor Who show anymore, anyway!
Service. The strong character puts others first and themselves second. We love self-sacrifice in our entertainment. Nothing brings the feels like Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom. All the superheroes have that crucible moment of having to choose between their own life and the well-being of someone else. Your hero accomplishes this by putting others first in tiny ways first. Being polite, having manners, being patient with that quirky neighbor, taking the cat to the vet when they’d really rather sleep another hour, wiping a child’s nose. She who is faithful in little will be faithful in much.
See how all of these apply to both dudes and chicks? Character is character. It can be manifested in so many ways.
Yep, this is a book review. Of a really fun book. You ready?
No, I did not just say that in a WWE wrestler’s voice.
Anyway, here’s the official summary:
By day, book-loving wizard Lily Singer manages library archives. By night? She sleeps, of course. In between, she studies magic and tries to keep her witch friend Sebastian out of trouble. Much to her displeasure, he finds it anyway and drags her along with him.
From unmaking ancient curses to rescuing a town lost in time, Lily and Sebastian fight to avert magical mayhem. Meanwhile, Lily’s mysterious past begins to unfold–a past hidden from her by those she trusts most. Will she be able to discover the truth despite them?
And now for my review.
This isn’t really urban fantasy, not if you take UF to mean clever wizards as the underdogs in a massive struggle against an overpowering evil force against the backdrop of a rainy city. This is more like what I think of as contemporary fantasy (and might be at home on a shelf of paranormal cozy mysteries): Girl and guy solve mysteries. They have chemistry. They exchange witty banter. They drink tea. Oh, and occasionally they do some really interesting magic.
I think that’s one thing that attracted me to the book in the first place. The magic system is based on Sumerian cuneiform (which has always intrigued me). It smacks of frontiers. The heroine, Lily, is always learning some new spell by examining an ancient artifact. It thrills my little paleontologist/archeologist heart.
The hero, Sebastian, is a witch. But he’s a witch in the sense that his magic comes from trading favors with other beings. And the beings he prefers to deal with are fairies. So there’s lots of him bribing various fairies and pixies with booze. It’s hilarious and not very witchy. It’s like the lighter moments in the Dresden books when Harry bribes the pixies with pizza.
The book is laid out kind of oddly–it’s basically three novellas rolled into one book. So in Story 1, you meet Lily and see how she deals with a haunted house. In Story 2, you follow Sebastian into the seamy underworld of Alabama and see how his fairies help him take on a drug ring. In the third story, the artifact of note in story 2 has been used to freeze a whole town in a time loop. Think Groundhog Day.
It’s kind of odd reading three stories in one book. But they’re all heavily interconnected. The shorter length makes for quick reading (again, like a cozy mystery).
Since I’m always in the market for light, fluffy reading, this book hit the spot. I’m also reading the second book, which is supposed to take the metaplot a little deeper. There’s also a kickstarter going for books 3 and 4, which will be out soon (yay!).
It’s that time of year again–time to access what we did last year. What we ate, what we accomplished, and most importantly, what we read. What did we love? What did we hate? Well, without further ado, here’s mine!
The top fantasy books that I loved:
Southern Spirits by Angie Fox.
A girl who has lost her family home in the deep South accidentally gets herself haunted by an ancestor who happens to be a gangster from the 20s. He also knows the location of all kinds of buried money that she could use to buy back her house. So it turns into a combination ghost buster/treasure hunt/murder mystery, and it’s a fantastic read. I enjoyed it hugely.
Caliban’s War, by James S. A. Corey
The sequel to Leviathan Wakes, this was hands down one of the most entertaining space operas I’ve ever read. (Of course, I haven’t read a ton of them, but …) The alien protomoloecule has been weaponized. Our heroes from book 1 are trying to help a scientist find his kidnapped daughter, but are plunged into an ever-deepening conspiracy about the protomolecule. Meanwhile, on Venus … some new terror is constantly happening. The book is 624 pages, and I read it in one weekend. Couldn’t put it down. SO GOOD.
Aranya by Marc Secchia
In a fantasy world where everybody lives on islands above a sea of poison clouds, dragons are extinct. It’s illegal even to talk about them. Aranya is a princess of a beaten nation who is being taken hostage by their conquerors to ensure her father’s good behavior. While trapped in a tower with a bunch of other spunky princesses, she makes friends, enemies, and a boyfriend. Except when she uses her (spoilers!) dragon powers on an evil soldier, her penalty is to be dropped into the poison clouds. On the way down, she turns into a dragon. Surprise! Aranya is a dragon shapeshifter. Once she learns how to be a dragon, she declares a one-dragon war on the nation who captured her and tried to kill her. AWESOMENESS ENSUES. Loved, loved this book. Must get the rest very soon!
And now … the moment you’ve been waiting for.
People only read these lists for the list of worst books, right? So, without further ado, here’s the books I read this year that I disliked:
No affiliate links for these guys, sorry:
Uprooted by Naomi Novik.
Naomi, I love you, and I love your books. But you can’t write romance. Srsly.
The premise of this book is great. Every few years the Dragon takes a maiden from the village. Except the Dragon is the name of a wizard. And the maidens he takes get the My Fair Lady treatment, and after receiving a great education, move away to the big city. The Dragon has to do all kinds of magic to keep the evil Wood from consuming the village and the farmlands. The heroine gets picked one year, and she has MAGIC and they have to work together to stop the evil wood.
Sounds great. That part of it was. You can see the romance coming a mile away, except … it never did. I reached the end so disappointed that I got on Goodreads and wrote my own ending where he finally tells her that he loves her. *frustrated grappling motions in midair*
The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
This book has been on the top Amazon sellers for at least a year. I finally picked it up. It’s about a world that is vaguely late-1800s England (steampunk?) where magic can only be performed on man-made materials. The girl is bonded to paper, a medium she didn’t want, and put under the oversight of a benevolent paper magician. He’s adorable in a Howl’s Moving Castle kind of way (except less of a jerk). She learns how to fold paper in all kinds of ways to do different kinds of illusion magic.
Then, halfway through the book, the body horror starts. An evil wizard comes in who cando magic with the human body, and she slices out the magician’s heart. She also somehow traps the heroine inside it. Now the heroine roams from chamber to chamber inside a living, beating heart, and kind of doing this virtual tour of his memories at the same time. It was gross. And not what I expected. And just … what the HECKBERRIES.
Nameless by A.C. Williams
“It’s a space opera!” I was told as I picked this book up. “A girl with amnesia is trying to find her way back to her home planet!” So I scooped it up and tried to read it.
First off, this book is about how sex is evil. The heroine works in a brothel. When she gets out of the brothel, she’s randomly assaulted/leered at/groped/propositioned on EVERY PLANET SHE VISITS. Finally she hooks up with the cast of Firefly and things get slightly better (they only make lewd comments about her and don’t actually assault her, despite embarrassing shower scenes). I couldn’t take any more at that point, so I put it down. Maybe I quit before it got good, I don’t know. Just … after the excellence that was James Corey, I couldn’t do the SEX ABUSE IN SPACE thing.
So there you have it. My top and bottom reads of 2016! What are your favorite/least fave books of the year?
So far it’s only available at Amazon, but the other retailers will be up in a day or two. This is a young adult contemporary fantasy–technically urban, but it’s less about a gritty city setting and more about friendship and chasing ghosts. You don’t have to have read the other books to enjoy this one. But if you have read the others, it’ll be fun to visit all the characters again. Magic Weaver is on sale for .99 for the rest of the week, so grab it now!
This is the second book in his urban fantasy series. Unlike Magic Weaver, this IS set in a gritty city setting. If you ever wondered about the secret occult underbelly of Los Angeles, this is the book for you. Also, all the heroes have superpowers that are like all the fun bits of quantum physics.
Two new books! It’s so fun getting to launch books. Especially when I’m excited about my friends’ books, too.
It’s July National Novel Writer’s Month! Props to all my frantic writer peeps who are taking time out of vacation to scribble out random stories.
To get into the creation mood, I’ve been listening to all my brain-food music. One of them is Return to Pooh Corner by Kenny Loggins. I listened to it over and over as a teen while composing tons of crazy fanfics.
You know how listening to music can make those mental connections, and place you right back into a time and place where you last heard it? It also can have really powerful emotional connections. For me, it was like a snapshot of my mental state as a super-creative teen.
I lived in a world of good and evil, fantastic adventure, and heart-tearing drama. This album was some of the backdrop. I lived in Neverland, where once you’ve been there, you can never grow old. This was my land of pure imagination. I didn’t worry about genre or market. With fanfics, you don’t have to worry about that stuff anyway–it’s all built in. My plots were bonkers, but so fun.
But things changed.
I’ve spent the last decade learning to be afraid. Learning to worry. Learning all those dark, negative things that help you survive adulthood–but they cut off your shining Neverland. In its place, I built a narrow, dystopian world of darkness and fear.
I didn’t realize how far I’ve come until I put on Kenny Loggins and revisited that snapshot of how the inside of my head used to look. I want to go back to being that intense, happy person. I think my kids would like her. So I’ve been trying to be thankful, like Habakkuk:
Ever since we started taking our high-quality supplements last year, I’ve gotten used to feeling healthy. No allergies, few colds. The only thing I get now are the big nasty bugs during flu season.
The thing about good health is that you take it for granted. You get up and go about your day, you eat what you like (within reason–avoid gluten and sugar like the plague). You go to bed at night and sleep like a baby. The health part of your life works like a well-oiled machine, and you don’t think about it.
Like the doctrine of grace, life is a list of Dos. Do your chores, do the things that need to be done, do enjoy your life, do have fun, do smile a lot.
Then one day, you run out of supplements.
I ordered more, but I’m cheap and use standard shipping, which takes a week.
You know why people think vitamins and minerals don’t work? Because the stuff you get at the drugstore does NOTHING. Our medicine cabinet is stuffed with multivitamins–men’s, women’s, prenatals, weird samples the doctor gave me, and so on.
Investigation of the labels reveals tiny doses of about twelve vitamins and minerals. A good one might have twenty.
You know how many vitamins and minerals the human body needs?
Ninety. 9-0. That’s the correct ratios of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, plus trace minerals that act as co-factors. For instance, vitamin C does nothing without calcium. Iron does nothing without copper. Plus you gotta have the Omega oils, which work in concert with the vits and minerals.
So I’m popping double doses of everything in the cabinet. Absolutely nothing happens. I suspect that they’re such low-quality pills that they go straight through.
My health begins to deteriorate. First is fatigue and brain fog. I walk around like a zombie.
Next is allergies. Then indigestion. I can’t eat a darn thing without my stomach reacting violently. Only vegetables seem to tame the beast a little. And remember, this is mostly gluten and sugar free! If I touch either of those, pick a symptom from The Wheel of Suck. Actually, pick five.
Next comes the canker sores in my mouth. Because those are always fun.
My chronic anemia returns. I can’t draw a full breath, and my legs twitch badly at night in that creepy leg moving syndrome.
Then comes my old friend, the urinary tract infection. It stays for days and weeks. I take cranberry pills. I drink lemon juice. I sit on hot water bottles. I really don’t want to go on antibiotics, but after days of suffering, it looks pretty attractive.
The list of things I can eat and do begins to shrink. This is Law–a list of don’ts. It gets longer and longer. Don’t eat sugar, honey, tea, any fruit, most meat, any grains whatsoever, slightly breaded chicken … it all causes headaches, stomach aches, and other awful things.
Then … Cue the angelic choir … My good supplements arrive.
Within two days the brain fog and fatigue are gone. Within three days the urinary tract infection is gone. Within four days the allergies, stomach problems, and canker sores are gone. The anemia and leg twitches vanish.
My hormones calm down–PMS disappears. My mood defaults to Cheerful because I feel so darn good. I go back to eating all the foods I couldn’t eat (except gluten and sugar). Grace rules once more.
I’ve talked about this supplement before and why it’s so good. I now understand why nobody believes me. Did you know that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements? In fact, nobody regulates them. That’s why most of them suck. Having spent a week mixing and matching our inferior drugstore brands and getting zero benefit, I feel desperately sorry for everyone around me.
My cockatiel is old and sick. He had stopped chirping or moving very much. I got him a bottle of liquid supplements, and he cheered right up. Guess what! There’s more vitamins and minerals in the bird drops than in ANY of my multivitamins. Only my really good supplement has more.
Law and grace–do and don’t. Good health and bad. It’s so weird to see a spiritual doctrine so closely paralleled in the health sphere. The law can’t save, no matter how strictly we follow it. Only grace saves. And there are so many counterfeits–its hard to tell the fakes from the real thing.
However, this doctor took the concept of habit in an interesting direction: that of force. I believe that she was talking about energy–you get up in the morning, and spend your force, or energy, over the course of the day.
Now, if your life has a series of good habits in it, this saves you a lot of energy. Things like getting up, showering, brushing your teeth, cooking meals at certain times, cleaning house–all these are good habits. They expend force. However, a person who has never consigned these menial tasks to habits must exert more force in order to accomplish them. They reach the end of the day with nothing left over.
The article then went on to talk about storing force. You store force by enjoying the moment, and by sitting and thinking, by having times of rest throughout your day. This is when you convert your force to a higher form, and it is used to bless and enrich those around you.
This really spoke to me. While I try to leverage habit or routine, I never, ever sit and store up force. I rarely take time to rest and think. If I have a quiet moment, out comes the device, and on goes the Internet. More energy is siphoned away by Facebook than anything else.
This week, I’ve tried to keep the household running on a routine, and have rest periods without Internet. And do you know, it’s been really pleasant. I had gotten frantic and angry, and wasted my force chasing the kids around, and lugging around the baby. This week it occurred to me that if the baby is old enough to scoot on her tummy and work on crawling, she’s old enough for an enforced nap time. Suddenly she’s much happier. I have more free time. I’m calmer. Habit wins the day again!
I find that writing works best if automated by habit. If I make it a habit to write or edit for an hour every night after the kids are in bed, it adds up. I can finish three books a year that way. The best thing is, if I have those few hours of quiet, I can store up force better. It helps me to think, and refreshes me with a better mood the next day.
Have you ever heard of “force” as applies to your energy level and exertion? Have you leveraged the power of habit to help run your life more smoothly?
Nyssa Glass is a reformed cat burglar turned electrician’s apprentice, settled into a life repairing videophones and radio-sets. However, when her past comes calling, she finds herself framed for murder and forced into one last job. No one has entered Professor Dalhart’s secluded mansion in almost a decade, at least not that returned to tell the tale.
If Nyssa wants to ensure her freedom, she’ll brave the booby-trapped halls and mechanized maids. Nyssa has skills, but this house has more than its share of secrets. As she steps into the cobwebbed halls lined with dusty mirrors, she has to wonder. Is the House of Mirrors really abandoned?
My review: This is a quick read, about 150 pages. My biggest complaint is that it moves TOO fast–I wanted more background detail, more worldbuilding, that kind of thing. But if you’re in the mood for a speedy read, this book suits the bill.
It’s supposed to be steampunk, but there’s computers, and I just couldn’t buy steampunk computers. Maybe I just haven’t read enough of the genre or something, but it felt more 1960s than 1860s to me.
Those issues aside, I enjoyed the various traps and horrors that Nyssa meets as she prowls around this giant mechanized mansion. A bunch of other burglars had tried to break in before her, and she finds their remains in satisfyingly macabre ways. She befriends the security system (who I kept thinking of as Wheatley from Portal 2), who tries to help her around the traps … mostly.
There are a few unanswered questions left at the end, but this is going to be a series, so that’s to be expected. I’m curious to see where this series will go, especially as Nyssa gains a sidekick at the end. Their relationship will carry the series, I think.