Friday, June 23, 2017

Blog Tour: Soleri by Michael Johnston (Review, Guest Post + Giveaway)

(Check out the full schedule of the Blog Tour HERE)

Adult, High fantasy
Publication Date:June 16, 2017
Pages:368 (Hardcover)
Published By:  Tor Books
Website:Michael Johnston

Soleri on Goodreads
My review copy:
Received from the publisher via Jean Book Nerd tours in exchange for my honest review

Where to get:


Michael Johnston brings you the first in a new epic fantasy series inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear.

The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.

On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister’s help, and Kepi has her own ideas.

Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god’s cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.

Detailed and historical, vast in scope and intricate in conception, Soleri bristles with primal magic and unexpected violence. It is a world of ancient and elaborate rites, of unseen power and kingdoms ravaged by war, where victory comes with a price, and every truth conceals a deeper secret.


The Soleri calendar held three hundred and sixty-five days - twelve months of thirty days each, which left five remaining days unaccounted for. During these five days, the people of the empire observed the high festival, the Devouring of the Sun. These days existed outside of normal time - no work was done, no animal was slaughtered, no field was plowed. Five days out of time -- a period of rest, five days to drink and play as the people of the empire waited for the sun to turn black

     The Soleri calendar held three hundred and sixty-five days - twelve months of thirty days each, which left five remaining days unaccounted for. During these five days, the people of the empire observed the high festival, the Devouring of the Sun. These days existed outside of normal time - no work was done, no animal was slaughtered, no field was plowed. Five days out of time -- a period of rest, five days to drink and play as the people of the empire waited for the sun to turn black. 

    Soleri is a satisfying and well imagined high fantasy novel with roots deep in ancient Egypt. The scope of this book is impressive - to say the least - and it's obvious that the author researched the history, the customs and a thousand other relevant things thoroughly before setting out to write it. Though high fantasy isn't exactly my genre of choice, with Soleri, I found myself entirely immersed in the familiar yet very different world and absorbed in the story line. It was a strong beginning to what promises to be a truly epic fantasy series and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys complex and detailed world building, nuanced politics and fascinating historical backdrops.

     Soleri is packed with interesting characters and told from multiple (5) points of view. Its action packed and deftly plotted, but I sometimes wished we'd stay with each character for a bit longer than a few pages. Perhaps, it's because I found the jumps a bit dizzying or maybe I'm just really bad at remembering who is who, because it took me a bit of time to really get a good grasp of the cast and their roles. That being said, once I had it all figured out in my head, I really enjoyed the fast paced action spiced up with a good amount of unexpected twists.

     What I loved the most about this book was the fantastic world of Soleri, complete with customs and historical tidbits that made it feel familiar and real, all the while introducing me to a new place. Clearly, the author drew heavily from Egyptian and Roman history, and yet he also managed to make this world uniquely his own. I loved how instead of yearly floods, we had annual Devourings with sun eclipses at the core. I found the traditions surrounding this event both gruesome and fascinating.

    Another thing that I can count as a big plus is the fact that Soleri does not shy away from character's brutality and darkness. In fact, a lot of the characters have flaws and are very realistically drawn, which made reading about their stories all that much interesting.

     I really enjoyed reading Soleri and can't wait for the next book in the series! 

Guest Post (Inspiration and Research behind Soleri):

Soleri is all about research. The idea behind the book came to me in an art history lecture twenty years ago, so the origin itself was academic in nature. I was fascinated by the idea of a civilization that was so old (three thousand years!) that the Egyptians of the New Kingdom thought of the earlier Egyptian kingdoms (the Middle and Old Kingdoms) as ancient. The people of the New Kingdomactually visited the pyramids of the Old Kingdom as tourists! There is something fascinating about a civilization that is so old that it has forgotten its origins, that it believes it will always exist. It’s a fascinating idea and equally fascinating to imagine how such a grand civilization might fall apart.

Soleri is equal parts research and imagination. We are not in antiquity. Soleri is a fully-realized, unique world, but its roots are in ancient Egypt.It grew out of Egypt’s DNA, but somewhere along the line in the book’s development Soleri became something completely unique.

So, yes, I did a lot of research. I started with history of ancient Egypt. Then I found books about how people lived at that time, about their daily lives. I wanted to know what fabrics were available, what metals and jewels and stones were on hand at the time. I wanted to know how they looked at their own image. They didn’t have mirrors, but they did have polished bronze. I needed to know what the common folk ate (bread and beer). So I found books on diet and raw materials. I’m trained as an architect, so I also made certain to read about their building techniques, what could and could not be accomplished technologically at the time. I amassed quite a stack of books.

But copious research does not necessarily make for great genre fiction. And I wasn’t writing non-fiction, or even historical fiction. Soleri is high fantasy, epic fantasy, but in a new setting. Honestly, I’m bored by medieval England or anything that resembles it. The people and the culture are too familiar. So I turned to my research to find a new setting, but I never let the research tie my hands. Soleri is speculative fiction. It takes the real world as its starting point but imagines a completely fictional place.

I’ll give an example. In Soleri, there is a yearly eclipse. It’s the center of their culture. In Egypt, the annual flood was an event of greatand equal importance, so great that they based their entire calendar (the first annual, three-hundred-sixty-five-day calendar) around the flood. In Soleri, the whole culture is focused on an annual eclipse. In our world, this is impossible. But if the earth and moon had circular orbits whose planes were perfectly aligned it would produce such an annual eclipse. In Soleri we live in that world. I took the research and re-imagined it. That’s the essence of Soleri.

About the Author:

Michael Johnston was born in 1973 in Cleveland, Ohio. As a child and a teen he was an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy. He studied architecture and ancient history at Lehigh University and during a lecture on the history of ancient Egypt, the seed of an idea was born. He earned a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University, graduating at the top of his class. Michael worked as an architect in New York City before moving to Los Angeles. Sparked by the change of locale, a visit to the desert, and his growing dissatisfaction with the architectural industry, he sought a way to merge his interests in architecture and history with his love of fantasy. By day he worked as an architect, but by night he wrote and researched an epic fantasy novel inspired by the history of ancient Egypt and the tragic story of King Lear. After working this way for several years, he shut down his successful architecture practice and resolved to write full time. He now lives and writes in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.


--Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter
- 10 Winners will receive a Signed Signed ARC Copy of Soleri by Michael Johnston

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Blog Tour: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam (Guest Post + Giveaway)

(Check out the full schedule of the Blog Tour HERE)

Adult, Thriller, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publication.Date:June 15, 2017
Published By:  Tor Books
Website:Laura Lam

Shattered Minds on Goodreads
Where to get:


She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.


“Riveting.” ―F. Paul WilsonNew York Times bestselling author

“A multilayered, suspenseful thriller, False Hearts explores themes of identity and power in a breakneck plot that keeps the pages turning.” ―Ilana C. Myer, author of Last Song Before Night

“An ingenious premise, and Laura Lam executes it flawlessly. Gritty and wise, your own pulse will be racing as you get caught up in this exciting tale.” ―Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Red Planet Blues

“A taut futuristic thriller, set in a San Francisco where everybody is beautiful... and nobody is exceptional. Two unusual sisters are caught in a war for control of a society that quietly suffocates its outsiders, rebels, and the damaged. Taema and Tila are all three, and their strange past and unique bond make False Hearts a difficult book to put down.” ―A. M. Dellamonica, author of Child of a Hidden Sea

“A smart debut from someone who's clearly got what it takes.” ―Peter F. Hamilton, author of the Commonwealth Saga

Guest Post:

A genie grants you three writing-related wishes: what are they and why?

We may as well reach for the stars here, as they are wishes, after all!

1. To really have my work connect with readers on a larger scale. So far, I’m an author that tends to get good reviews and has a smallish but very loyal reader base. It’s not like I expect to sell Gone Girl levels of books or anything, but I would like to know that if I have an event, I’m unlikely to be the only person there. I’d like to know that there’s a ready audience out there excited to read what I put out, that I’m entertaining people and making them happy. If we’re wishing for the stars, consistently being a bestseller would be amazing. But it’s not something I expect or feel I am owed. I’m OK with slowly and steadily building my readership.

2. To banish (most of) my writer self-doubt. I write fairly quickly (so far in 2017 I’ve written around 145,000 words of fiction and nonfiction), but I’d write more and better if I wasn’t constantly terrified. I procrastinate in very creative ways before I settle down and actually get the words on the page. I wouldn’t want to lose all of that fear, as then I might not work as hard to make my books the best they can be. A little bit of fear is good for you. But I’d like to not be as frozen with self-doubt.

3. To get all the books I have in my head out into the world. I currently have a queue of about ten I want to write, with glimmers of ideas that might become more. Nothing excites me more than that initial buzz of the idea, or that moment when I hold the book in my hands for the first time. I have so many stories I want to share with people, and I hope I can do that.

And, you know, I wouldn’t say no to a film or a TV sow based on my work :)

About the Author:

Laura Lam was born in the late eighties and raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams.
After studying literature and creative writing at university, she relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, a boy she met online when they were teenagers and he insulted her taste in books and she insulted his right back. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. She is now a dual citizen, but at times she misses the sunshine.
While working a variety of jobs from filing and photocopying endlessly at a law firm to library assistant to corporate librarian, she began writing in earnest. Her first book, Pantomime, the first book in the Micah Grey series, was released in 2013, which was a Scottish Book Trust Teen Book of the Month, won the Bisexual Book Award, was listed a Top Ten Title for the American Library Association List, and was nominated for several other awards. Robin Hobb says “Pantomime by Laura Lam took me into a detailed and exotic world, peopled by characters that I’d love to be friends with . . . and some I’d never want to cross paths with.” The sequel, Shadowplay, followed in 2014, as well as several the Vestigial Tales, self-published short stories and novellas set in the same world. The third book in the series, Masquerade, will follow in 2017.
Her newest book is False Hearts, a near-future thriller released in June 2016 by Tor/Macmillan and in three other languages. Peter F. Hamilton calls False Hearts “a strong debut from someone who’s clearly got what it takes.” Another thriller, Shattered Minds, will be released in 2017.
She is still hiding from sunshine in Scotland and writing more stories.


--Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter
3 Winners will receive both FALSE HEARTS and SHATTERED MINDS by Laura Lam 

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Review: Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Publication Date:April 25, 2017
Pages:287 (Hardcover)
Published By:  Doubleday Books
Website:Jennifer McMahon

Burntown on Goodreads
My review copy:
Received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

Where to get:


The New York Times best-selling author of The Winter People and Promise Not to Tell returns with a riveting psychological thriller in which an unresolved murder haunts a family for generations, forcing one daughter into a life of hiding and concealed identity to escape a deadly threat.

On a brilliantly sunny summer afternoon, ten-year-old Miles Sandeski witnesses the murder of his mother as she sunbathes in their suburban backyard. When he emerges from a hidden play space to disrupt the crime, Miles scares off the killer, but he is left with a powerful clue that will compel him to pursue the murderer and seek an understanding of the horrifying event for decades. 

Years later, secretly aware of the killer's identity and what he is after, Miles will try to protect his teenage daughter from becoming the next victim--the murderer wants something, held within Miles' family in the small industrial New England town of Ashton, and will fatally pursue each generation for what's desired. 

Burntown unfolds as the story of Miles's daughter when she emerges from an incident intended to kill her, with a loss of memory and a total dislocation from the life she has known. Necco, as she comes to be known, embarks on a life as a kind of fugitive, hiding as an outsider in the town's abandoned corners Ashton's underbelly, Burntown reliant on kind strangers for her survival: a boyfriend who is himself a run-away, the mystical women known as "the fire eaters" who give her shelter in a camp by the river, practicing sooth and seeing through the altered reality of powerful herbs they call "The Devil's Snuff," Theo, a high-school senior who finds herself caught up in a romantic affair that compels her to sell drugs to students and teachers at Our Lady of Hope high school, and Pru, the cafeteria lady there, Theo's best customer, who dreams of being beautiful, talented, and adored in another life. 

The lives of these misfits lost teens and adults intersect in a crime that implicates them all, and as they flee the police and the real killer who continues to hunt Necco, a story unfurls that is edge-of-your-seat suspenseful with classic Jennifer McMahon twists and surprises."


"You never know. My mama always said it's the people no one notices who are most full of surprises".
But she understands now that if you open a door, anything might come through.

     From the author of Winter People and The Night Sister, comes yet another multi-generational, intricately woven thriller/murder mystery with subtle supernatural undertones and remarkably rich cast of characters. Burntown is different from Jennifer's two previous novels, in both the atmosphere and overall tone of the book (it's less creepy, but somehow more unsettling and emotionally affecting). I'd definitely say it's less Stephen King, and more Dean Koontz, if you know what I mean. And let me tell you, guys, Jennifer has been on my auto-buy list for a while now, and every time I pick up her new book, I am reminded exactly why that is. She's just so good at twisty, edge-of-the-seat thrillers that have a beating heart at the core of it all. And while Burntown isn't my favorite of her books (I'd say Winter People takes the podium there), it is definitely a well-plotted, fast- paced page-turner that is very much worth your while. 

     At first, the vibe I got from this book was more sinister and reminiscent of Frequency (the 2000's movie), but as the story unraveled, and new characters were introduced, I realized this was more of a deftly plotted murder mystery, than a ghastly, bone-chilling thriller. And that's not a bad thing at all, as I found myself really hooked on the story line, trying to guess ahead and solve the puzzle (which wasn't easy at all, let me tell you that). 

      I must admit that I felt rather teased by the fantasy/supernatural aspect of the plot. I was hoping that part would be explored further (as in, the special phone would play a bigger part). The way the plot unraveled left me craving more. Initially, I assumed the lost (or stolen, if you will) Edison's secret invention that allows you to communicate with the dead would be at the core of the story, and we would eventually get to see it in action again, in some super creeptastic, hair-raising scene. Well, that didn't happen. Aside from the two brief scene-setters that took place in the past and were the catalysts to the events centering Eva in the present, the supernatural aspect came down to the Fire Breathers and their ability to see beyond the veil after using the Snuff. 

    That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed putting pieces of the puzzle together and figuring out who-dunit. Some parts of the story were a bit predictable, while others left me genuinely surprised and pleased. I must also add, that I really connected with the characters in this story, especially Eva and Theo. I appreciated how diverse the cast was, too. I loved Pru and her little circus full of dreams and magic. And I loved the (very, very subtle and barely present, yet thoroughly satisfying) romance between Pru and Fred. It was a nice little cherry to top off the captivating read. 

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