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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: Malcontent

Malcontent: Puzzle Box Trilogy, book 2

K. M. Carroll

Two souls, one death

Six months after the events of MALEVOLENT, Mal and Libby are struggling with the side effects of having two souls combined in one body...and the uncomfortable intimacy it brings. 

When Mal captures a hive of killer bees, they inform him of a new threat from the Necromancer. Dark barriers and dangerous sigils are mounted around the valley. At the same time, Libby begins training with the Marchers, who will instruct her in the use of life and death motes. But the Marchers are on a relentless hunt for the Lich Prince and his hidden soul – which she now carries inside of her. 

Now Mal and Libby must find a way to extract Mal’s soul before they are caught by the Marchers - killed by the Necromancer - or destroyed by the slow subsumption of their souls.

My Review

The first book in this series made #2 in my top 10 books of 2015, so I was definitely excited for this next installment. It definitely doesn't disappoint.
Mal and Libby's relationship is progressing quickly, due in part to the whole "she's got his soul" thing that happened at the end of book one (whoops). There are also some killer bees, and we get deeper into the motivation of the "big bad" (Mal's dad) and the world building behind the Marchers and the magic system.
As to whether this can be read independently of the first book, hard to say. Probably, but I wouldn't try it because you lose too much (the establishing of the relationship and things like Mal's bees which are recapped, but better experienced by reading book one).
Over all a strong second act which while not a cliffhanger does set up a follow up quite nicely.

Purchase on Amazon 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Random Interview Saturday! Liberty Speidel

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

We knock lightly on the door to our next author's study. She bids us come in and then begins to brew a pot of tea. Let us see what she has to say.

Liberty Speidel


Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador where she could rival Captain Jean Luc Picard in consumption of Earl Grey tea.

Liberty Speidel

The Interview

What is the best dream you ever had? Alternately, what is the worst nightmare you’ve ever experienced?
I don't really remember my totally pleasant dreams. I remember my bizarre ones. My most bizarre ones usually deal with former crushes and people I haven't seen in a long time.
Worst nightmare, definitely the handful of times where I wake up in a cold sweat thinking my husband or my son are dead. My husband works in a semi-dangerous environment, and our son suffers from a rare disease and underwent a bone marrow transplant as a result nearly four years ago, and I worry more about them than anyone. Those nightmares get me going every time because they feel so real.

What weather is your writing? A dark and stormy night? A sunshiny day?
A warm, Kansas day with heavy humidity where you can practically feel the severe storms brewing later in the day. They can be pleasant on one hand, but you know it can be chaos later.

Sum up your life in five words and two punctuation marks. 
Unpredictable. Learning. Happy. Determined. Curiosity.
Interobang and ellipses.

When cats take over the world, how do you plan to win their good graces?
I know where the tuna cans are and I have opposable thumbs to open them. 

Which natural element (earth, wind, fire, water) do you feel the greatest kinship with?
This one stumped me a bit. Unless I'm in the shower, I have a slight aversion to water. I hate the wind blowing my hair in my  face or popping against my ears. While I enjoy gardening, I hate having the earth under my fingernails. But I am a fire bug. I hate being cold. And I like to watch things burn: candles, wood piles, fireplaces...

During an alien invasion, what would be your weapon of choice?
Stealth. Or an RPG.

Are computers friends or foes?
Depends on their programming. They have the potential to be friends, but never trust anything without a soul.

You have superpowers. What are they and what do you do with them?
Ha! Funny since I write superhero books. ;) 
On a practical level, based off my life now, I'd want the ability to duplicate myself so I could always have my house clean, always keep my kids' studies as top priority, and be able to write and market more.
On a purely selfish level, the ability to teleport across long distances. I have a love/hate relationship with travel. I love traveling, but hate not sleeping in my own bed. I think this would make it the best of both worlds, especially if I could touch my family and bring them with me.

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?

Q: If my life were a movie, which actress would play me and why? 
A: Anne Hathaway, for the simple fact she's probably the most down-to-earth appearance-wise than some actresses. I'm not flashy, and wouldn't want a flashy woman to play me. Other alternatives: Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley.

readers can find me at:
(not there AS much, but I love to have conversations when people message me or tag me!)
(My podcast along with Josh Hardt and Aaron DeMott. I'm the producer and *try* to keep the guys in line...it's a tough job.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Short Story Round Up

I read a lot of short stories. I have a hectic life, and there's something nice about being able to start and finish a story in one setting ... so here are a few recent shorts I've enjoyed that you might enjoy as well!

C. L. Wells
Tessa, a self-conscious introvert, attempts to avoid a party and everything goes wrong. When a handsome stranger offers to lend a helping hand, she isn’t sure things will ever be right again.

This is a short story that is also included in the anthology titled, Where the Light May Lead (Reflections of Faith Book 1).

My Review

I read through this really quickly and it kept my interest. Admittedly, this is not my genre, but I found it a nice character piece, introducing two people and hinting at a future together. I liked the open endedness of it. It brought them to a believable place and then leaves the rest up to your imagination, which I think is nice.
Purchase on Amazon

Emily Martha Sorensen

** This book can be read as a standalone. **

Virgil didn't mean to sneeze and burn down the Christmas tree. But it was hot, and bright, and pretty!

His parents, Rose and Henry, are exasperated. Raising a baby dragon is hard enough; now they have to worry about their safety.

Can they solve this problem in time for Christmas?

A 14,000 word G-rated new adult fantasy.

My Review

While I did read this as a standalone (not having read the previous books in the series), it did take me a few pages to catch onto a few things. Like I thought there was some confusing "head hopping" going on in the first bit, only to figure out that the dragon was telepathic and literally putting his thoughts in the main character's head. I think if I'd started from the beginning, that would've been less disconcerting, so I'd suggest reading them in order rather than hopping in at the third like I did. 
Honestly, my main complaint about this is that it wasn't very Christmasy. I know that seems odd because it has dragons and dragons are awesome, but I wanted more Christmas. The holiday involved could've easily been swapped out for Thanksgiving and it wouldn't have made a huge difference. However, if you read it for a different take on dragons, you'll definitely get that, which makes it a quick and entertaining read. 

Neil Gaiman 

In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.
In a village in ancient Norway lives a boy named Odd, and he's had some very bad luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition; a tree fell on and shattered his leg; the endless freezing winter is making villagers dangerously grumpy.
Out in the forest Odd encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle—three creatures with a strange story to tell.
Now Odd is forced on a stranger journey than he had imagined—a journey to save Asgard, city of the gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.
It's going to take a very special kind of twelve-year-old boy to outwit the Frost Giants, restore peace to the city of gods, and end the long winter.
Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever . . .
Someone just like Odd .

My Review

I don't usually review non-indies, especially not "big names" because I figure you've heard of them and don't need me to tell you about them. That said, I really like Neil Gaiman, and this particular one is more about me telling you what I like than me recommending a book by an author that you probably know and (hopefully) enjoy. 
This made me laugh. The pictures are charming, so it is worth having around just for that (there are different editions. I got the one with black and white drawings by Chris Riddell), and I loved the new take on Norse mythology and the off-kilter young hero who finds a way to solve a conflict between gods and giants. 
It is short, but it would make an excellent family read aloud. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Random Interview Saturday! Karis Waters

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

A beam of light shoots from the sky, then down it slides our next author! Let's ask her some questions.

Karis Waters

Author Bio

Katie Morford, known professionally by her pen name, Karis Waters, is a freelance content editor, author, photographer, blogger, and speaker. She's traveled to over 30 countries and co-founded indie publishing house Crosshair Press. She loves speculative fiction, dancing with her fiance, and lots of Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked ice cream. Contributions appreciated. 

The Interview

What is the best dream you ever had? Alternately, what is the worst nightmare you’ve ever experienced?
Some of my favorite dreams were of riding a gorgeous black stallion around a beautiful landscape. Yes, I've always been a horse girl. There was also flying involved somehow. My worst reoccurring nightmare is my teeth falling out. No joke. Apparently, it's somewhat common and has something to do with fear of aging or stress. I'm going with the latter. No surprise there. 

What weather is your writing? A dark and stormy night? A sunshiny day?
Depends on the book. My current WIP is a YA urban fantasy, so it's mostly sunshine in tone (despite it being set in cloudy England). However, my first novel, an epic space opera fantasy, is definitely of the dark and stormy night variety. Angsty all the way. My co-authored romantic suspense novel, Kenan, (published by Crosshair Press) is lots of sunshine with occasional epic thunder battles. 

When cats take over the world, how do you plan to win their good graces?
This would be a distressing turn of events, as I'm not a cat person. But I guess I'd imagine them as fluffy little kittens and keep my laser pointer handy, in case I needed a distraction to make my escape. 

Which natural element (earth, wind, fire, water) do you feel the greatest kinship with?
This question makes me smile, since I was just introduced to Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's been my binge-watch show of choice while I've been sick. The answer would definitely be water. Love it. Always have. Fire would probably be a close second. People like to say I'm water on the outside (calm, serene) and fire on the inside (strong-willed and passionate). 

If your favorite historical era had an ice cream flavor made in its honor, what would it taste like?
My favorite historical era is WWII/1940s. So it'd probably be a mixture of Half-Baked and Rocky Road. Definitely some hard bits mixed all through, but a surprising amount of sweetness for all that. 

Who is your fictional best friend and what activities do you choose to do together?
Oh, that's hard. I have so many. I'd choose Stef (from my book, Kenan), Anne (Anne of Green Gables) and Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter) for random shenanigans when I'm bored. Barb (from Meg Mitchell and the Secret of the Journal by Kimberly McNeil) when I need to kick someone's butt with style and sass. Hermoine (Harry Potter) when I want to book nerd out with someone. And Jenny (MM & SofJ) for baking cookies and binge-watching Netflix while cuddling on the couch.

You have to trade places with one of your characters for a day. Which and why?
Um, Kris. Or Stef. Or Jena. I don't really care which one. Basically, I'd get to hang out with a bunch of hot, badass men...er, I mean, the Katiller squad...all day. I'd die, there's no question. But what a way to go. 

You have superpowers. What are they and what do you do with them?
Does bending count? Cuz I really want to be a water and fire-bender. Also, flying and invisibility would be cool. Or moving things with my mind. That would probably come in handy when I'm stuck in the bathroom stall with no toilet paper. 

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it? 
What dessert would you eat all day every day if you could? 
Chocolate gelato ice cream with gooey homemade from-scratch brownies and chocolate chip cookie dough mix-ins. All. Day. Long. Every. Day. I don't care if it's -40 outside. So good. 

You can follow her adventures online...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: The Firethorn Crown

The Firethorn Crown

The Firethorn Crown

Lea Doue

The crown is her strength. The crown is her weakness.

Princess Lily, the eldest of twelve sisters and heir to a mighty kingdom, desperately seeks a break from her mother's matchmaking. Tradition forbids marriage with the man Lily loves, so she would rather rule alone than marry someone who only wants the crown.

Fleeing an overzealous suitor, Lily stumbles into a secret underground kingdom where she and her sisters encounter a mysterious sorcerer-prince and become entangled in a curse that threatens the safety of her family and her people. Lily can free them, but the price for freedom may be more than she's willing to pay.

The Firethorn Crown, a re-imagining of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, is the first novel in The Firethorn Chronicles, a series inspired by fairy tales and other classic stories. Follow the sisters on their adventures in a land where sorcery is feared, women can rule, and dragons fly.

My Review

I like a good romantic fairy tale retelling and this one provided just enough new to the story while keeping aspects I like (I'm a sucker for the wounded warrior hero, for instance). There are a lot of characters in this and for the most part they remain distinct. Yeah, sometimes it is hard to keep track of all 12 princesses, but the ones who carry the plot definitely stand out and I think that's what matters. I'm glad it didn't get busy trying to give them equal "screen time." 
Minor complaints: "okay" in fantasy novels is a pet peeve of mine, and this uses it a lot. I think that's just me, though. Overall, a satisfying read.

Note: The Firethorn Crown was the February Read for the Fellowship of Fantasy Indie Book Club. If you'd like to join the club for future reads, you can join here on Facebook or sign up for their mailing list here

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Random Interview Saturday! Dakota Caldwell

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.
A coach and four rumbles up to the door. Who rings the bell? Dakota Caldwell! ... that was bad ... here, have an interview.

Dakota Caldwell


Born and raised on a Kansas farm, Dakota has long had a passion for writing. He is currently a college student pursuing a mechanical engineering degree, writing in between homework assignments (and sometimes in class when it gets boring).

The Interview

You receive a contract that allows you to have any pet you want (mythical or real) but in return you have to spend a week AS a pet to a mythical creature of your choice (dragon, giant, sphinx?). Do you take it or do you decline?
Oh, heck yes! I totally want a Camazotz, and who wouldn't want to be the pet of a giant fire-bat? I mean, I would have to make sure that I kept a good amount of repellent around (they tend to eat humans), but the reward would totally be worth it. I could live alone, and none of those pesky salesmen would be able to come near my door.

Congratulations! You are now president of this blog post. What's your first executive order?
 OOH!!! I get to be president? Well, my first order of business is to make this blog great again. Not that it's bad in any way, it's a great site! We just need to make sure a firewall gets built between here and SpecFaith. It wouldn't do for these views to go to another blog as well, and we HAVE to ensure the safety of all these words. I mean, I COULD just delete all the comments...

If you could live inside a theme park ride, which would it be?
 Can I have a specific ride in a specific park? I totally want to live in the swinging boat in Pacific Playland. I mean, the zombies would get annoying after awhile, but... Zombies.

If you had to write only in one crayon color for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Purple! Because then all my writing will be in the color of royalty, and everyone will be decreed to read it.

What mythical creature do you most wish to be real?
Oh, man. The mythical publishing agency that accepts all my books, only edits what I want edited to make it better, and promotes it to my millions of adoring fans. That's a creature, right? I mean, it sure feels like my manuscript gets ripped apart by wild beasts, so it has to be...

If you had to get stuck inside a television show, what would it be?
The Walking Dead!!!! Like, not with Rick's group. They just seem to attract trouble, and I rather prefer living. I would be off on my own, coming up with some sort of uniquely kick-butt way of surviving!!! I would have to run into Rick's group at some point so that everyone back at home would be able to see how awesome my methods are... But just a quick visit, then I leave again.

Which of the following potions would you like to possess: a Love Potion, a Sleeping Potion, an Invisibility Potion, or Coffee?
Love potion! I mean, I'm engaged, so it's not to attract new females... I could just REALLY use the extra help to get me out of trouble on occasion...

Can you simply walk into Mordor?
I was trying to come up with some sort of complicated answer, but I'm just going to say nope! Not without a ton of extra weaponry, explosives, an army, a nuke... And by that point it isn't simple. It's tearing down the walls and marching in to a brilliant fanfare.

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?
This one is easy! I want to be asked if I take my fiance to be my wife, at which point I want to answer yes! 


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Magical March Giveaway with the Fellowship of Fantasy

Here Be Magic …

Enchanted lands, magical creatures, fairies and witches and ... space wizards? You bet! We've got all that and more for our Fellowship of Fantasy March ebook giveaway. Sixteen authors are offering sixteen adventures, along with a little something extra to make your month magical. Keep reading to learn more and get a closer look at a few books in the bundle.

Call of Kythshire

by Missy Sheldrake

Inspired by books like the Harry Potter Series, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the works of Brian Froud and Jim Henson, Sheldrake hopes to capture the imaginations of readers of all ages with her Keepers of the Wellsprings series.

Azaeli Hammerfel has grown up in the guild hall of His Majesty's Elite in the peaceful kingdom of Cerion, training hard and dreaming of the day she will finally become a squire and ride out with her parents, both knights, on the King's Quest. Her dream comes true when she earns the right in her sixteenth year, but her name is left off the quest declaration and her parents and their guild ride off without her.

When tragedy befalls the Elite on their quest, Azi must band with her best friend Rian, a Mage Apprentice, to discover the source of a mysterious curse. They're joined by an unlikely companion: a colorful fairy named Flit. The fairy claims she is from Kythshire, a mysterious and legendary land of Fae, closed off from the outside and cloaked in secrets.

Together, the group seeks to unravel a Sorcerous plot which threatens both the existence of Kythshire, and the peace the kingdom of Cerion holds dear.

Call of Kythshire is a tale of love and friendship, the value of family, and the fight between light and dark. It is a journey of failure and redemption. It is a clean read, free of sex and gratuitous violence, with a strong female lead.

Where Carpets Fly

by Elise Edmonds

Elina Faramar finally leaves her family's flying carpet shop when her father reluctantly agrees she can take magic lessons in nearby Kamikan. Urban life promises adventure, and new friend Kara shows her the sights.

However, Elina soon sees a darker side of life: a foreigner arrested at the circus, forbidden schoolhouse rooms with odd comings and goings, and unsociable pupil Simeon's shady deals at the docks. Everything seems connected to the volatile neighbouring country of Pallexon, but no one will tell her why.

When Elina and Simeon develop a magical mind link, he seems close to confiding in her. But an unexpected voyage takes Elina and Kara away from answers and towards unknown danger in Pallexon.

Alone in a strange country, with no identity papers, the situation rapidly turns into a nightmare when Kara is mistaken for a spy. With her own freedom at stake, Elina must rely on her wits and magic to save her friend and unravel the secrets of Pallexon.


by Intisar Khanani
The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.

When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.

Have a look at the entire collection of ebooks, and enter below to win them all--as well as a custom wand similar to the ones pictured here--for your very own.

Giveaway runs from March 2-17. The winner will be notified by email on March 18. [FoF reserves the right to substitute the custom wand with something of equal value for anyone outside the US or Canada.]

Enter below and good luck!

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