Blog Tour, Review

Blog Tour + Review: Book of Apex Volume 4

I am taking part in the Book of Apex Blog Tour hosted by Little Red Reviewer, so you will see a couple of features linked to the tour over the next few weeks. Please note that my review is based on the short stories of the authors I will be interviewing, Adam Troy Castro and Rahul Kanakia.

 

Tomorrow’s Dictator by Rahul Kanakia

This short story reveals a world where ‘adjustment’ is possible – a process where people’s emotions and behaviours can be adjusted at will by another, resulting in an incredibly hard-worker who doesn’t need a break, a totally devoted lover who never strays, completely obedient children and more. It is a very scary idea – the loss of total free will, and people voluntarily give it up without really realising what they’re doing.

The main character of the story, Sasha – I don’t really want to call her a protagonist because of what she’s done – uses the process, both on her employees and her husband, George. George has been reduced to a simpleton, following Sasha around like a puppy and responding to her every word and command. What is especially terrifying is how George asked for the process, and how Sasha agreed to it.

Although we don’t get much time to get to know the characters, I instantly disliked Sasha because of how she treated others. Perhaps she was just doing her job, but as she brought adjustment into her personal life then she couldn’t really have that big of a problem with it. This tiny glimpse into a world devoid of free will is pretty terrifying and harrowing. For this reason, I’m awarding the story four stars – Kanakia gets a lot across in just a few pages.

 

During the Pause by Adam Troy Castro

This short story immediately struck me as unusual in that it is written in second person plural – and it’s not so much a story as a fictitious warning or message from an alien race, claiming they will wipe ‘you’ out. Like Rahul Kanakia’s story, a real sense of fear for the situation is created in a short amount of time. One of my thoughts after reading the story was that it could even be humans talking to another alien race – although there is mention of how they do not understand religion. However, my idea was that it was humans far into the future, a future where religion no longer had any real meaning – but I suppose it is rather far-fetched!

The message sounds incredibly arrogant, the attackers looking down on their victims as if they are ants they could easily squish with just one step.  Which is pretty terrifying – and reminds me of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Hopefully these invaders will succumb to the same thing as Well’s tripods too! I also want to award this particular story four stars – for the chills it sent down my back whilst reading it.

 

If you want to learn more about the Book of Apex blog tour, or would like to check out the schedule, then please take a look here.

Author Interview, Blog Tour

Blog Tour + Author Interview: Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen by Jordan Jacobs

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen by Jordan Jacobs, a middle-grade/young adult book about a young girl with a passion for archaeology.

If you know me, you’ll know that I studied archaeology and ancient history at university, and my ambition is to one day be a museum curator. So how could I turn down the chance to read a book about a young archaeologist, written by an archaeologist?

For the blog tour I have an interview with the author, Jordan Jacobs, and I’ll be posting my review of the book tomorrow. So let’s begin!

Interview

Rinn: I studied archaeology myself, and I LOVED all the little references hidden in the book, like the Pitt-Rivers twins and the Aubreys. Will this be a running theme through the rest of the books?

Jordan: I’m so pleased you caught those!  Yes, there are a lot of little “easter eggs” in Warrior Queen for those who have some background in archaeology. There were some in the first book, too, just as there will be in the third.  I had some fun with that, especially with finding archaeological terms that also work as names (Cairn, Barrows….)

Rinn: I spotted those too! I thought it was so clever. What inspired you to start writing fiction about archaeology and archaeologists?

Jordan: I wanted to write books that I would’ve loved to read as a kid.  I was initially drawn to the adventure aspects of archaeology, but feel strongly that my books should have a scientific component as well, so that young readers could get a sense of how the discipline actually works and why it is important.

Rinn: I loved the book at my age now, but I wish there’d been something like it when I was Samantha’s age too! Is Samantha influenced by your younger self at all? I love her enthusiasm and passion for archaeology.

Jordan: Oh, definitely.  But while my earliest impressions of archaeology leaned more towards the adventure side of things, Sam’s interest lies firmly in the science–which she has some real knowledge of, thanks to her archaeologist uncle.

Rinn: So far, Samantha’s travels have taken her to the Peruvian Andes and Cambridge. Where do you think she’ll go next?

Jordan: I know precisely where she’s headed… but I’m not telling!  I’ll just say that it’s somewhere very different from the first two settings, and involves an aspect of archaeology that Samantha has never encountered before.

Rinn: Experimental archaeology? GIS? Thermoluminescence dating? *throws around random terms* What periods of history or particular locations would you love to write about next?

Jordan: Well, next up is Samantha Sutton Book 3.  But historical fiction is something I’d love to attempt.  I’ve always been fascinated by contact stories: the first English delegations to the Mughal court, Esteban’s arrival at Zuni… these incredible moments in human history where two vastly different worldviews encounter one another and are forever changed.

Rinn: Those are also moments I don’t know much about, so I’d definitely be interested in reading more about them. How did you go about researching for the books? Were they already time periods/locations you’d researched previously or perhaps dug at?

Jordan: All the books are set in places where I’ve worked, studied, or spent a significant amount of time. As an undergraduate, I lived in the Peruvian Andes for a summer-long project. I did my graduate archaeology work at Cambridge, so I know the area well. This made research much much easier, because much of it I’d done years before–and for course credit!

Rinn: I can tell you all about Silchester if you ever feel like writing about it, haha! That’s where I worked throughout university. What is your usual writing process? Do you like to stick to a schedule?

Jordan: With a toddler at home and a full-time job, I don’t have the luxury of a schedule. But I happily write whenever I can (a glance at my clock tells me that it’s 5:30am right now. Yikes!).

Rinn: Eek, that’s dedication! Well thank you very much for taking some time to answer these questions. If you were given a time machine, where and when would you go and why?

Jordan: I’d love a glimpse of Plantagenet England.  I’m sort of a Richard the Lionheart groupie–though I don’t think we’d have similar views on anything–and it would be interesting to see how things functioned in his time.  But I’m also a fan of Back to the Future, and would know to be extremely cautious (rift in the space time continuum and all that).  I might just stick my head out for a second or two.  I don’t think I’d linger long.

Rinn: This is more of a personal question, as someone who is going on to study museum studies and heritage. I see that you have worked at many museums and for many heritage organisations – what advice would you give to someone interested in that field?

Jordan: Network. Request informational interviews.  It’s the kind of work that draws passionate people, and it’s important that employers can sense your commitment to the field.

Rinn: Thank you so much for that advice! And finally, which historical figures would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Jordan: Ada Lovelace, Howard Carter, Gustav Mahler, and Boudica (before her troubles began). I’d make burgers.

About the Author

Jordan Jacobs

The author with Richard I.

Jordan Jacobs has loved archaeology for as long as he can remember. His childhood passion for mummies, castles and Indiana Jones led to his participation in his first excavation, at age 13, in California’s Sierra Nevada. After completing a high school archaeology program in the American Southwest, he followed his passion through his education at Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge. Since then, Jordan’s work for the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History and UNESCO Headquarters in Paris has focused on policy and the protection of archaeological sites in the developing world.

Jordan’s research and travel opportunities have taken him to almost fifty countries– from Cambodia’s ancient palaces, to Tunisia’s Roman citadels, to Guatemala’s Mayan heartland and the voodoo villages of Benin.
Jordan now works as Head of Cultural Policy at UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

Thank you so much to Jordan for letting me interview him, and to the publisher/Netgalley for a copy of the book.

Are you a fan of archaeology or books based around historical events? Give Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen a try!

Blog Tour, Review

Blog Tour + Review: I Am Venus by Bárbara Mujica

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Today I have a review of Bárbara Mujica’s I Am Venus for you, as part of the TLC Book Tour. The book follows the life of artist Diego Velazquez, told through the eyes of those closest to him.
Narrated by the woman who posed for his portrait of Venus, this semi-biographical novel of Diego Velázquez is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. Mujica’s writing flows very smoothy, apart from the occasional untranslated Spanish word which may cause the reader to falter. I loved the tone of the book, it was both easy to read and informative.

I can’t fault Mujica’s descriptive writing. She creates some wonderfully vivid images of seventeenth century Spain, causing the reader to experience the smells and sights of Madrid. She also clearly sets out current events at the time, meaning that any reader who does not know too much about seventeenth century European history should be able to follow the story with few issues. As I studied this period of history in school, it was really fun to see familiar names and figures brought to life. The one thing that may confuse the reader at some points however, are the similar names and rather wide cast of characters. Whilst this is obviously not the fault of the author, the characters having been real people four hundred years ago, it would have perhaps been nice to have a list of characters in the book somewhere.

The major issue I had with the book is that the point of view was often confusing. I understand that the author wanted the identity of Venus to be a mystery (she is unknown to this day) whilst also having her narrate the book. This lead to some odd narratives, often switching between first and third person and in fact making the book feel like it had several narrators. I think the idea behind it was good, but it perhaps was not pulled off correctly.

I wouldn’t so much refer to this book as a ‘story of scandal’ – especially when in the context of history that makes me think of things like the corruption of the Borgias or the supposedly inbred Hapsburgs – and the book doesn’t actually focus too much on what is going on in the wide world, but more on domestic and smaller issues relating to Velázquez. And whilst the book is about Velázquez, he is often absent for many chapters – as he was often absent from the lives of his loved ones – so it is more a story about the people in his life.

I particularly enjoyed this one because most historical fiction that I read is either ancient history, or based in medieval or Tudor England. So this was a nice change, and is definitely a recommended read for anyone with an interest in seventeenth century European art or history, or the Baroque period.

Click here to visit the other stops on the tour and also read about the author. 
Blog Tour, Giveaway, Review

Blog Tour + Review + Giveaway: The Returned by Jason Mott

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I’m proud to be taking part in TLC Book Tours‘ tour for The Returned by Jason Mott! In this post you will find a review of the book, a little bit about the author and a giveaway.

If someone that you had known and loved, long since passed away, suddenly turned up on your doorstep, how would you react? This is what the Hargreaves, and others around the world in The Returned, have to deal with.

The book raises a lot of interesting questions, and demonstrates many of the possible responses through the actions of different countries throughout the world. It is something that would divide people, and certainly does in the little Southern town of Arcadia. After years and years, family and friends will have moved on and accepted the death of a loved one. So how would they feel when that person, who has been missing from their life for so long, suddenly appears as if nothing ever happened?
Like the Hargreaves, many people are terrified of the idea – until it affects them personally. Lucille refers to the Returned as ‘devils’, and Harold doesn’t show any strong opinion. That is, until their son suddenly appears, fifty years after his death and eight years old once again, looking exactly as he did on the day that he drowned. By this point Harold and Lucille are in their seventies, past the age and energy level of being able to look after a young, hyperactive child, but he is their son – or is he? Is he really their son, who died fifty years ago, or is he an apparition, a clone, anything but?
The Returned have the memories and habits of the people that they once were, and the book  never really addresses whether they are anything other than those people – it’s pretty much left open to the reader. The book also points out a few other problems with these ‘miracles’. What do you do when a spouse, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend who died all those years ago suddenly reappears and wants to be with you? What if you had someone else, a new family? How about people who were murdered – could they name their killer?
So many questions! It really is a thought provoking book.
The Hargreaves are a sweet old couple, Harold grumpy but with a soft spot for his wife, and Lucille a lot tougher than she originally seems. Both characters develop at a good pace over the course of the book, recent events causing them to question their own beliefs and morals.

It was nice to have various interludes all over the world of the Returned appearing, but I think a bit more of that would have been better. As it was, it felt a little like it was only affecting the town of Arcadia, rather than being a worldwide occurrence. Apparently there are some shorts covering other characters and places, but I really wouldn’t have minded that in the main storyline. There were also no stories of any Returned being upset or confused by the time skip, or age differences with loved ones – in fact they barely seem to bat an eye at their parents or lovers suddenly being fifty years older.

Jason Mott chooses to ignore writing any explanation for the Returned, and it isn’t really questioned by many of the characters. Instead he delves straight into how people would react or feel, he plays brilliantly on emotion and character development. I think this was the right choice; by leaving out any reasoning behind the sudden appearance of the deceased he leaves it very much open to the reader to decide how and why, whilst probably also widening the target audience for the book.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read. Slow-paced to start with, it picks up and ends with a shock. It had me really thinking about the situations within the story and how I would react if I were part of them, and it’s always great when a book gets you to interact that way.

About the Author

 

Jason Mott holds a B.A. in fiction and an M.F.A. in poetry, both from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and is the author of two poetry collections. His writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, and he was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. Jason lives in North Carolina. The Returned is his first novel.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter

The Returned is also being made into a television series, entitled Resurrection! Optioned by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, it will air on ABC in the US this autumn.

Giveaway