Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion—or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.
A Last Chance for Love
But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.
My book club always tries to pick out a holiday read every year, though most of them end up rather disappointing in my opinion. However, this was one I discovered via an online list and I recommended it for this year’s Christmas read. And surprise – I actually loved it!
If you’ve spent any length of time looking through the books I read and review you’ll notice there aren’t many romances among them. Hardly any at all. I don’t really find straight romances intriguing, though I’m fine and happy with books that include romantic elements. So all the romances I read are usually bookclub picks – because that’s the point of the bookclub, to stretch yourself and read things you wouldn’t normally.
However, as I said above, I picked this one and really enjoyed it. So maybe Victorian romances are my thing? But contemporary romances are not? If anyone reads a lot of historical romances, leave me a comment below – I am curious about how they compare to contemporary romances and what ones you would recommend.
Anyway, about the actual book! Yes I’m posting this on Christmas Eve, but the good news is it’s available on Kindle so you can still read this one before Christmas is over! It’s a novella and a super quick, cute read in general.
This story felt right up there with a Jane Austen novel, albeit one set around Christmas and written in a slightly more modern style. I think the author definitely did her research and did a great job capturing the time period and crafting a period-appropriate romance. I really loved the two main characters, Sophie and Ned. We get both their viewpoints in this book, which was nice. That also makes it a little different than a typical Jane Austen novel.
Above all, I felt this book did a phenomenal job painting a picture of a traditional Victorian Christmas complete with snow, garlands, roaring fireplaces, and glowing lights. I definitely wish I could visit Appersett House! As I’m not traveling to Colorado this year for Christmas, it made me nostalgic not only for travel, but for snowy woods and cold temperatures. In the meantime, this Christmas read will have to suffice.
OUR BEST FRIENDS NEVER TRULY LEAVE … THEY AWAIT US AT THE BRIDGE.
Our dogs are our friends and companions, guardians and defenders. Their love enriches our souls, and few things bring us greater joy than their loyalty and devotion.
Until that inevitable day arrives when we have to say goodbye.
But what if that is not the final farewell? What if there comes a time and a place where we can be reunited with the dogs we have loved and lost? For Nathan Wilkinson, this magical realm of which all grieving families dream will one day become a reality.
At each juncture of Nathan’s life, he experiences friendship, guidance and personal growth from his canine companions. First comes Shiloh, the wise German shepherd of his youth; followed by Lindsay, the miniature schnauzer whose misfortune changes his adult life. When called to battle, he befriends Georgie, the stout war dog, whose courage under fire inspires all who serve with him. Finally there are the Labradors, whose seemingly mindless antics mask an iron-willed devotion to protecting his growing young family.
Each of these remarkable dogs shares with Nathan countless adventures, love and companionship, and ultimately, the heartache of loss. And then one day, an unexpected tragedy provides him the chance for a brief but joyous reunion with those very same dogs at the place where all departed pets await their human companions…the Rainbow Bridge.
(A copy of this book was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.)
I don’t know about you, but this increased time at home has made me especially grateful for my animals. They bring joy and entertainment to our house on a daily basis.
My dog is a senior citizen. He’s somewhere around 11 or 12 years old. He’s also a big dog which makes me want to make time slow down to hold onto the years I have left with him. I knew when I adopted him we’d have less time together, but nothing in life is a guarantee. While I’m in no hurry to get another dog, my thoughts do occasionally stray to my next dog and what that experience will be like.
Rainbow Bridge is the story of Nathan Wilkinson and all the dogs that have left pawprints on his heart over the years. For fans of Marley & Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain this is a sweet story of a life lived in and shaped by the companionship of dogs.
Jackson is a great storyteller and I found myself eagerly flipping the pages. His understanding of dogs means that every dog in Rainbow Bridge feels real, whole, and distinct – which anyone who’s ever had a pet knows. No two are the same and every dog in Rainbow Bridge feels unique. As unique as Nathan’s life is, though any reader who’s had a dog can surely see themself in Nathan’s story!
For anyone who’s loved a dog or loved a pet, this book is for you!
Parr never meant for any of this to happen. All he wanted to do was pilot the Aurora around the galaxy and avoid his royal duties for a while.
Now, in the wake of his parents’ mysterious demise, it’s time to un-fake his death and take up the mantle meant for him since birth.
Unfortunately, it won’t be easy.
A pirate king and the galaxy’s most dangerous bounty hunter stand between him and the gates of his home, Bilena Epso Ach.
Parr will need the help of two unlikely friends. Manc Yelray, a wise-cracking old pirate with money on his mind and an appetite for strange similies. And Ren, a smooth-talking outlander with a plan, and a shadowy secret of her own.
But do they have what it takes? And what will they eat along the way? Because there’s only one rule in space: never eat the hot snack.
ANYTHING but the hot snack.
Let me start by saying it’s been a LONG time since I read five of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels (I’m unclear if there are more than five. I read the big compendium version), but from the very beginning, Space Throne gave me strong Douglas Adams vibes. And I do mean from the very beginning – I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this book from Brian. Which I loved and never quit loving. Now, there’s a book in the world I had a hand in shaping!
Lest you think my review is extremely biased (I mean, I’m sure it’s at least a little biased) let’s start with what Space Throne isn’t. It’s not a serious book. It’s not a sweeping treatise on the human condition (though it does succeed mightily in comically skewering some facets of our existence). It’s not a true space opera (though I might call it a comedic space opera).
Instead, Space Throne is a fun romp through a galaxy far, far away. It’s a breezy weekend read to distract you from the general madness of 2020 and the bat-shit crazy madness of the weeks leading up to the 2020 election. Ever wish you could escape to someplace where COVID-19 doesn’t exist, the news headlines don’t resemble a screwball comedy, and the good guys still mostly triumph over evil? (I refuse to comment if that last bit is a spoiler or not.) Here’s your ticket. Space Throne just released into the world today! If you like accessible world-building, colorful characters, wacky hijinks, jokes on jokes on jokes, and a plot you WON’T see coming a mile away, give Space Throne a try.
To celebrate Space Throne’s release day, I have Brian back to do another interview for the book. Some of you longtime readers might remember when I interviewed Brian after his first book, Ghost Bully, came out. I lured him back by promising not to ask (all) the same questions.
Shannon Fox (SF): What inspired you to write Space Throne?
Brian Corley (BC): One of my earliest memories is watching Star Wars at a drive-in theater outside of Dallas, TX. I was two years old and just the right age to grow up with the original trilogy.
(I also remember being extremely jealous of the kids beside us that had a pallet set up on the roof of their van with blankets and pillows … that sure was a next-level 70s family)
My earliest foray into storytelling were scenes staged with the old Kenner Star Wars action figures, so it was really a no-brainer for me to have a go at my own little Sci-Fi adventure.
SF: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
BC: A desire to write glowing reviews everywhere they can and purchase other books by me.
I want people to have a good time with it. I meant it to be a breezy read with a nuanced message if you want to look for it.
SF:How was writing this book different than writing Ghost Bully?
BC: Both had kind of a false start. I wrote the first couple chapters of Ghost Bully then set them aside for a year or two, but once I picked it back up, it came together all at once. With Space Throne, I got about 30,000 words into it before setting it aside for a while. Once I picked it back up, I finished it at a more methodical pace.
Of course, the most significant difference was workshopping Space Throne with my writer’s group. Shout out to Tornado House.
SF:What was the hardest part of the book to write? The easiest?
BC: Once I figured out everyone’s voice, it was pretty easy. Manc started with a voice like the tordaver, but I switched it up about halfway through (that was a tough re-write).
SF:Who is your favorite character in Space Throne?
BC: Manc Yelray. Not even close.
I’m not sure if it’s because Parr, Ren, and our antagonists did most of the heavy lifting to drive the plot, but Manc’s parts were super-easy to write. I mostly wrote him with the characteristics of Peter Ustinov in Blackbeard’s ghost, but with a deep, gravelly voice somewhere between Vin Diesel and Hagrid.
Although, someone in our writing group said that she thought of him as more of a Jason Mamoa type, and I couldn’t help but work that in on subsequent passes.
SF: If you, like Parr, found yourself living in self-exile in the Sixteen, how would you survive?
BC: I think these COVID times, or whatever we’ll end up calling them, give me a great sense of what I’d do. Work a set amount of time each day, exercise for a little bit, then consume as much media as possible via Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and Prime before falling asleep.
I think I have a leg up on Parr since I can garden and go outside without a breathing apparatus*.
*Except for last month when we couldn’t go outside because of the air quality in Portland.
SF: What has it been like finding your style as a cross-genre humor writer? Any tips for anyone who wants to get into writing humor? Or make their work more humorous?
BC: I guess like the Talking Heads sang, “Same as it ever was.”
I’m not really trying, it’s just the way I tell stories right now. What’s cool about indie publishing is that if my style changes, I can just write those books too.
I guess I’d say, don’t force anything. That doesn’t mean don’t try, you have to try. Just keep working on the spot where you want a joke or comedy until you’re happy with it. You won’t always nail it on the first go.
Listen to people you trust—if no one thinks it’s funny, don’t be afraid to either hone or cut it.
SF: When I last talked to you, it was shortly after Ghost Bully came out. What have you learned about indie publishing since then?
BC: Oh man, I want to say “so much,” but it doesn’t feel like it.
Indie publishing is kind of this mercurial troll market. Just when you think you know where things are or where they’re going—poof, they’re gone.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned since the launch of Ghost Bully is the power of AMS ads. Amazon has something like 70% of the book-buying market place, so their ads are targeted at just the right people.
Newsletter promos help too, but I usually save those for special occasions like Kindle Countdown deals.
Was that too inside baseball?
SF: What’s next for Parr, Ren, and Manc?
BC: Two more books, hopefully. We’ll see how Space Throne does.
(Two more books for two of the three of them, maybe)
SF: And what’s next for Brian Corley, the man behind the curtain?
BC: Me? Who knows. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to stop thinking I have any idea of what’s coming next.
Writing-wise, I’m working on a contemporary fantasy set in and around my new hometown of Portland, OR. I already have a book with ghosts, one in space, so now I need some weird, trippy elves in my life.
It should be out next year.
Hopefully, I’ll be on Book Two of the Space Throne trilogy shortly after. Come visit me over at www.brian-corley.com and read Chapter 1 of Space Throne for free!
(Thanks for having me, Shannon!)
How to Win a Free Signed Copy of Space Throne
Thank you to Brian for agreeing to give you a chance to win a signed copy of his newest release! All you have to do is leave a comment below with the name of your favorite sci-fi adventure (book, movies, or tv) to enter. For extra chances to win, hop over to my Facebook and Instagram.
Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe.
Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop.
Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand. New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children.
I loved the original three books in the Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children series so I was apprehensive when I heard the series was continuing on. I’m always afraid that some things are better off left where they are, rather than continuing to try to create more story in order to continue to move forward and sell more books.
As a result, there’s been quite a gap in time since I finished Library of Souls. Enough time for books 4 and 5 to come out in the series. So starting A Map of Days, I realized I’d forgotten quite a bit about the earlier books. Much of the finer plot points and certainly what all of the kids’ peculiarities were. I wish this book had come with an appendix to help you get back up to speed, but alas, I had to make do with contextual clues. Luckily, the story does a good enough job situating you in the story that, after a little patience, I got it figured out. Enough to start sinking back into the story again at least. Though if you, like me, are returning to the series after a long absence, I would probably do a reread first.
Perhaps owning to a pandemic year that has all stuck at home, I find I’ve been really enjoying books set in own backyard, in America, the country I know best of all. As much as it is to escape to exotic locales and worlds, there’s something special about seeing the country you know in the pages of a book. Particularly a part of the book that is intimately familiar to the author (Ransom Riggs spent some of his life in Florida). And of course, it’s always a treat to see a part of the US that’s not commonly depicted in books and film (Florida that’s not Miami and the rural south).
In contrast to other series I’ve read where the books extended beyond the author’s original pitched and sold vision e.g. was a trilogy and now it’s 4, 5, or 6 books, there feels like enough new story here to keep the story going without it feeling boring or tiresome. This book still had all the quirky fun, magic, and inventiveness I’ve come to associate with this series. I also enjoyed how different Peculiar America is from Peculiar Europe and I look forward to exploring more of that contrast and how the kids have to learn to navigate a world that’s unlike anything they’ve ever known – for both Jacob and the original Miss Peregrine’s crew. I’m excited to see these characters continue to grow up and struggle to find their place in the world as young adults, not children. And I’m hoping the new books might inspire a film or tv series reboot that does the books more justice than they got the first time around.
Looking for something good to read this weekend? Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem has been included in a new StoryBundle curated by New York Times bestselling author, Kevin J. Anderson! The “Chills & Wonder Bundle” includes 13 dark fantasy, urban fantasy, and thriller titles available in ebook format from authors like Jonathan Maberry, Lucienne Diver, Amity Greene, Kevin J. Anderson, and others. It also includes a copy of The Wolf Leader by Alexandre Dumas! All 13 books are available for as little as $15 and a portion of the proceeds go to support the Challenger Learning Centers. The bundle is only available for a limited time so click here to buy!
Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem is officially available today! This anthology features 23 new stories celebrating monsters and the movies. I’m honored to have my story, “Hyde Park” included in the stellar lineup. Edited by Kevin J. Anderson and published by WordFire Press, this is an awesome anthology you won’t want to miss. Available in paperback and ebook.
Sometimes you go to the movies. And sometimes, the movies—and their monsters—come to you. At any moment, without notice, monsters once relegated to the screen become a reality. Aliens and demons, dragons and ghosts, werewolves, vampires, zombies, and seemingly ordinary people who are just plain evil.
Join award-winning authors Jonathan Maberry, Fran Wilde, David Gerrold, Rick Wilber and others for 23 all-new tales of haunted theaters, video gods, formidable demons, alien pizza, and delirious actors. Each story takes you to the silver screen with monstrous results.
Funny or grim, unsettling or cozy… You’ll laugh! You’ll sigh! You’ll scream!
Grab popcorn—and good running shoes—and enjoy the show.
Featuring stories from: Jonathan Maberry, Rick Wilber, Brendan Mallory, Ryan F. Healey, Hailey Piper, Julie Frost, Karina Fabian, Charles Maclay, Jesse Sprague, Kevin Pettway, Luciano Marano, Linda Adams, Cindy Hung, David Boop, Phyllis Irene Radford, Andrew Hearn, B.D. Prince, David Gerrold, Ben Monroe, Shannon Fox, Steve Rasnic Tem, Fran Wilde, and Sam Knight
An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack, and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica — an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams.
Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds.
I met the author of this book (and the subsequent other titles in the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series) a few years ago at Superstars Writing Seminars in Colorado Springs. I’ve heard the story of this book’s publication a few times and it never fails to both impress and move me to tears. But only recently did I get around to reading the first book in the series.
It proved to be another perfect quarantine pick. Imaginative, fun, charming – the perfect antidote to long days of worry about the world, cabin fever, and growing wanderlust.
To me, Here, There Be Dragons is a wonderful nod to classic children’s fantasy by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carrol, L. Frank Baum, and many others. I admit to not being super well-versed in all of the classic children’s fantasy titles – I’ve never read A Wrinkle in Time or A Wizard of Earthsea. But I’ve read enough to say that if you enjoyed the above authors and their stories, you will love this book. Even as an adult coming to this series for the first time, I found much to love here and knew I would have been obsessed with this series as a kid.
Growing up, we had a small, highly-stylized globe that bore the inscription “here, there be dragons.” I love that this series used this classic cartographic feature as a jumping off point – that “here, there be dragons” literally means, dragons, and also that sailing into uncharted waters brings you a world of myth and magic and fantasy – and also dragons. I don’t want to reveal a few of the twists that occur in the story, but I will say they were all absolutely delightful and everything I could have hoped for and more.
Finally, it should be noted that the author is a supremely talented illustrator and both the cover and the artwork inside the book (there’s an illustration that heads each chapter) are the work of the author.
I am looking forward to acquiring the next volumes in the series and continuing on with the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica!
Over the weekend I learned that two of my short stories, “White Feather” and “Hyde Park” will be published in the next Superstars Writing Seminars anthology, Hold Your Fire! “Hyde Park” will actually be a reprint as it will first appear in the Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem Anthology which is coming out later this summer! “White Feather” is a new contemporary fiction story about a woman grappling with the loss of her best friend.
Hold Your Fire is an anthology of stories celebrating the creative spark and I am incredibly excited to have two stories in the new anthology. No publication date has been announced yet for Hold Your Fire, but all proceeds from the sale of the anthology will go to benefit the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship will allows aspiring writers to attend the annual Superstars Writing Seminars in Colorado Springs.
Hold Your Fire will also feature stories from Kevin J. Anderson, Mary Stormy Pletsch, Brian Corley, Kristen Bickerstaff, CJ Erick, Wayland Smith, Kat Kellermeyer, Alicia Cay, October Kaai Santerelli, Tanya Hales, Raphyel M. Jordan, Mike Jack Stoumbos, Jace Killan, Kitty Sarkozy, M Elizabeth Ticknor and Rebecca Treasure Schibler, and Mel Koons.
And…..if all that wasn’t exciting enough, I just got my author copy of Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem in the mail today AND I found out it’s available for pre-order now on Amazon!
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.
I loved Libbra Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty series when it came out, but I haven’t really kept up with her other books over the years. I can’t remember if I found The Diviners series because I stumbled on the series while looking for comp titles on Amazon or an IG post from author Roshani Chokshi inspired me to check out, but both together ultimately motivated me to order the first book in the series.
I usually keep my reviews on Isle of Books positive these days and only review books I thoroughly enjoyed. And I DID thoroughly enjoyed this one, but I have to say I did not like the way Evie spoke. I DO think her voice is very true to the time…I just personally don’t like the way people spoke at that time in American history. I find it grating and I have a hard time watching old movies for the same reason. So while I’m commenting on this to say that the main character does have a distinctive voice that didn’t appeal to me…the story and series is so darn good and intriguing I read it anyway. And I already bought the next book. That should give you an idea of how strong I think this book is overall that I’m still recommending it despite having a personal beef with the main character’s voice!
This book does an excellent job laying the groundwork for what I think will be a unique, immersive, and addicting series. The first book is rather lengthy, but it does an extraordinary amount of world-building, introduces us to a big cast of characters, opens the door to what I think will be a series-spanning arc of solving a cataclysmic problem, and combines the best of many different genres into one neat package (History! Paranormal! Horror! Mystery! Young Adult! Steampunk!) The Diviners feels like the start to a boldly ambitious series and I. Am. Here. For. It.
I will note that I’m not a big fan of horror because I’m easily scared…and this book creeped me out in places. It’s definitely on the more horror-y side of things. And still I kept going because I was intrigued by the characters and the story, both the plot that spans the pages of The Diviners and the larger plot that we just get a taste of in this book.
As I mentioned above, I already bought the second book in the series and am excited to dive back into this quartet of books!
It’s the end of the Nineteenth Century. San Francisco’s cobblestone streets are haunted, but Chinatown has an unlikely protector in a young Daoist priestess named Li-lin. Using only her martial arts training, spiritual magic, a sword made from peachwood, and the walking, talking spirit of a human eye, Li-lin stands alone to defend her immigrant community from supernatural threats.
But when the body of a young girl is brought to the deadhouse Li-lin oversees for a local group of gangsters, she faces her most bewildering—and potentially dangerous—assignment yet. The nine-year-old has died from suffocation . . . specifically by flowers growing out of her nose and mouth. Li-lin suspects Gong Tau, a dirty and primitive form of dark magic. But who is behind the spell, and why, will take her on a perilous journey deep into a dangerous world of ghosts and spirits.
Not too long ago I raved about how much I enjoyed The Girl With Ghost Eyes. Well, The Girl With No Face managed to be even BETTER.
The second in the Daoshi Chronicles series, The Girl With No Face took everything that I loved about the first book and paired it with even stronger character development for Li-Lin and other returning characters. In particular (and this is a slight spoiler) the relationship between Li-lin and her father is a standout in this book.
What this series does really well I think (but it often isn’t mentioned in reader reviews and I didn’t mention this myself when I reviewed the first book) is it presents a strong female character that also feels contextualized to her time and culture. So yes Li-lin is a kickass heroine, but she doesn’t feel wildly anachronistic. She feels like she belongs in 1899 San Francisco and that makes her struggles and character development feel believable. There are also some nice gendered cultural touchstones in this book that are very, very well done (in particular, a conversation about foot binding and a conversation about why Li-lin’s father wanted a boy, not a girl).
The other thing it does well is present Chinese culture in a way that doesn’t feel Westernized or watered down. I would say I have an above-average knowledge of China, her history, and her culture (compared to the average American which is, I know, a super low bar), but a lot of the stories, figures, and cultural practices are things I’ve never heard of or even have the glimmer of a memory that maybe I learned about it in the past. Obviously I can’t comment on the accuracy of everything that’s used, but wow am I learning a lot by reading this series.
If you liked, but didn’t love the first book in the series, I would recommend continuing on to this one because it raised the bar on the series and I’m very, very excited for the next to come out (whenever that is).
The only thing I actually don’t like about The Daoshi Chronicles series is that I’m discovering this when it’s only two books deep. I could use about ten more of these right now haha.
I also want to note this series would be a great quarantine choice. They’re fun, fast-paced, magical, transportive, non-depressing, and they’ll teach you something if you’re open to learning, but you’re not at all required to do deep, meditative thinking.