Category: Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity

Blog Book Tour | “Dream of the Navigator” (Book One: #FarawaySaga) by Stephen Zimmer #JorieReads her 8th #Dystopian story and has a surprise to share with her readers!

Posted Wednesday, 15 August, 2018 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a stop on the “Dream of the Navigator” blog tour from Seventh Star Press. The tour is hosted by Tomorrow Comes Media who does the publicity and blog tours for Seventh Star Press and other Indie and/or Self Published authors. I am a regular blog tour host with Tomorrow Comes Media and whilst I haven’t read all of Mr Zimmer’s collective works, I did previously enjoy his anthology collection of shorts out of one of his universe’s of interest: Ave. I have oft contemplated whether or not I could find a niche of interest in Dystopian stories and this one felt uniquely different and I decided to give it a go! This is interesting because the first time I read one of his stories I was a 1st Year Book Blogger and as I am celebrating my 5th Blog Birthday (this August), I am reading my second story of Zimmer’s.

I received a complimentary copy of “Dream of the Navigator” direct from the publisher Seventh Star Press in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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A bit of a reflective look at Jorie’s views on Dystopian Lit:

I must confess, I have been avoiding reading books that fall under this sub-heading across all genres for such a long time because I still have issues with certain books I read whilst in school! Writers like Steinbeck and Orwell did not paint my future well for appreciating Dystopian stories! Nor did I feel very inclined to read them on my own inclination due to the heavy amount of violence and dark undertones that seemed to be all the rage inside the stories that were being produced for the genre overall. Which is why I decided to undertake this challenge (originally) during SFN (Sci-Fi November aka #RRSciFiMonth). To approach the genre as a skeptic, but perhaps emerge after a month of readings as an appreciator?

This is how I began an essay about why I’ve been a reluctant reader of Dystopian Lit for the entirety of my reading life! I had meant to pull the stories off the mini-list of #mustreads I had pooled together that particular year – though as luck would have had it, something derailed my efforts and I hadn’t quite accomplished what I had set out to do! This was my 1st year as a Book Blogger and my first foray as a participant into the now infamous phenomenon knowing as Sci-Fi Month and/or Sci Fi November which was happily founded by Rinn of Rinn Reads (she’s since moved on to co-blogging).

A note on ‘dystopian’ literature:

Being that I am not as well versed in this particular genre, my understanding of its place in literature and the key components that make it vital to be read, will evolve as I seek out more titles to read. However, I started to expound on what I am reading through The Boxcar Baby, and have drawn one curious conclusion: dystopian stories have the tendency to bring out the warts of our exterior worlds and environments, and seek to convey a critical thought or forewarning that would then, either indirectly or directly shift the perspective of those who can bring about the most change in our own lives. Its a method of story-telling to bring to the readers’ attention certain aspects of modern life that are effectively in need of change OR give a cautionary tale of ‘what could be’ if humans do not tread lightly on a path that could lead them to a future of ill-regret. Again, I could be completely mistaken, but this is a newcomer’s perspective of what the genre is seeking to reveal and assert. To put it another way, one must endeavour to walk through a desolate and despairing dystopia in order to emerge into a utopia of balanced proportion.

-quoted from my review of The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Mulvihill

(2013, September) | 1st Year Book Blogger

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My Dystopian Reads:

The Boxcar Baby (Steel Roots, Book One) by J.L. Mulvihill

Moments in Millennia: A Fantasy Anthology (edited) by Penny Freeman

→ My favourite short of course was ‘Time out of Mind’ by Michael Cross

The Lazarus Game by Stephen J. Valentine (DNF)

An Uncommon Blue (Blue series, Book One) by R.C. Hancock (DNF)

The Path (Tag series, Book One) by Peter Riva (DNF)

Watcher (Watcher series, Book One) by AJ Eversley*

Carbon (Watcher series, Book Two) by AJ Eversley (DNF)

*NOTE: Eversley’s series in [2017] was my ill-fated attempt to re-address a curiosity of mine about Dystopian Lit and to see if I could finally find a singular author who could not only entice me into their world-building but give me the kind of Dystopian story I was seeking.

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As you can see, Zimmer’s Dream of the Navigator is my eighth attempt at reading Dystopian narratives over the score of the five years I’ve been a book blogger! I started reading this particular one *after!* my fifth blog’s birthday (6th of August, 2018) – marking it officially the one story I felt in five years which would become the ‘exception to the rule’ and the kind of Dystopian story I’ve been seeking all these years whilst wandering round a genre which has failed to garnish my full heart & appreciation!

There have been keen moments of where I’ve tucked inside a writer’s vision for their world-building which has befit what I felt would resound well as a ‘Dystopian Futuristic impression’ of where any particular world could be cast afield to such a such a time in ‘the future’ of where certain attributes of its society led it down a particular path and thereby led to a certain outcome. You can see this in the motion pictures “Wall-E” (one of the best representations of a society that is too ‘connected’ to see the truth in the pudding round them!) and “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” (where the sole pursuit of ‘life’ is found in a decidedly ‘altered’ future). Ironically, finding those films seemed to be an easier pursuit than finding a writer who knew how to write a Dystopian world which not only had the chops to hold my attention but to write a sophisticated narrative which has teeth to stand out from the pack!Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

And, then there was that particular infamous (in my mind) #SciFiExperience where I was wicked excited about reading Kate Elliott’s Icepunk series (Spiritwalker) whilst contemplating her ‘Court of Fives’ novel. I am still curious about these stories – I had to table my goals that year as well. There have been a lot of ups/downs over the years in my reading life & endeavours but occasionally when the stars aligned, I was able to read a few Dystopians despite the angst of having to postpone the other reads I was most curious to explore!

I drew together further insights into why I have this love/hate relationship with Dystopian Lit when I tried to settle into the first installment of the Blue series by Mr Hancock.

I think the main issue I find with Dystopian Lit is the fact everything is a bit cock-eyed; meaning, where you can observe what is wrong it isn’t enough to evoke change; you have to prove change needs to happen and oft-times that means putting your own life at risk. There is a clear wave of bullying between the different caste systems in the story, and the boy who caused Bruno to become painted is the classic bully whose connections protect him yet he is allowed to manipulate events without consequences. Bruno starts to unravell the underpinning principles of his world, whilst noting not everything on the Blue side is effectively the same elsewhere. For the Greens and those whose fire are reflective of blended hues (which points to the fact they ‘painted’ or blended their fire with someone else; either by force or compliant) getting through their lives is not quite the same as what Bruno had whilst he was a purebred Blue. The Blues are more elite in this world, as they are given opportunities the others are not privy to receiving themselves; even if by opportunity they are controlled. There is an imbalance between individual freedoms and the internal workings of the government who seek to control every aspect of their choices and how they act on their free will can determine their fates.

It wasn’t the writing that bothered me it was the structure of the story itself and how powerless everyone in Telesphore City truly were as perception on events trumped the truth of them; reducing any ability for justice. As I turnt around in my mind everything I had read up until this point, I realised why I struggle so much with Dystopian Lit and why I have been the last to admit it simply might not be for me at all. Its the disparity of it all. The overwhelming anguish of having the world painted black (here this refers to an intense thickening of darkness not a coloured variant of a word) to the brink where the light has barely any wick to shine. This is what bothers me a bit about Young Adult novels in general, but in regards specifically to Dystopian, I think I struggle with letting go of my optimistic spirit whilst I am reading them.

I love conflict and adversity in the books I am reading, but when it comes to Dystopian story-lines, I find myself uncomfortably displaced and a quickening sense of how fast everything can change. It is a bit like trying to sort out where you’ve gone wrong with a map written in a language you do not speak. I have read two Dystopian novels now, wells, technically I read a portion of this one and I struggled to finish the other one (The Boxcar Baby), giving me pause for realising sometimes what your curious about isn’t always worth uncovering. I just cannot give my heart to Dystopian Lit no matter how much I try to think there is a writer or a story within these worlds that will appeal to me.

Hancock makes interesting choices to steer the reader away from using strong language as a method of expressing what is being felt during the height of intense emotional moments; yet he cleverly uses colour as a way to not only explain the world but how colour itself can express the darkest shades of emotion. He makes clear definitions between what is considered right, wrong, and questionable (the in-between) yet personally I struggle to tuck inside a story whose undercurrent of tone is backlit with such heaviness; which is becoming the way I can express Dystopian story-lines. The uneasiness quickened a bit whilst seeing how callous some of the characters were towards each other and how the guards in the story were equally so towards everyone.

Hancock I believe has given a strong presence for YA Dystopian Lit for those who understand how these worlds are underlit and written as a whole. For an outside perspective, I didn’t find it a good fit for me personally but those other book bloggers I am thinking of tonight (including the girls of “Oh the Books” who co-hosted Sci Fi November this year!), I think they might tuck inside this and enjoy what he gave to the genre. For me, I checked out when a boy was killed simply for helping his best friend get out of a locked down campus — the manner in which he was killed just wrecked me on a lot of levels and the unnecessary force was just too disturbing. In light of recent current events, I respect a need to show different points of view and a clarity of conscience but in the end, the novel just broke my heart once too many times.

– quoted from my review of An Uncommon Blue by R.C. Hancock

Where Hancock erred in keeping me rooted in his vision of his Dystopian world, Zimmer has excelled. The key differences of course is purpose & intent – there is an undertone which remains firmly oblique and darkening in Hancock’s world whereas there is a presence of Light & Hopefulness in Zimmer’s.

Moreso, I simply enjoyed the back-stories and the background of Zimmer’s Faraway Saga moreso than Hancock’s as to me, the world in which Hancock created would let down a lot of readers for how desolate it truly became. You never felt you could gain traction of change inside his world – everything was operating against rebellion and personal freedoms. Even the powers he conceived were at first uniquely interesting to observe but then, I felt he worked against that power and kept altering the potential outcome to something rather more nefarious than I was willing to see through.

A lot of the issues I had in ‘An Uncommon Blue’ were never observed in ‘Dream of the Navigator’ in fact, in many ways – I felt Zimmer’s series was built on a stronger foundation. He had a stronger vision for his world to where you never felt the world itself was ‘changing against it’s type’. He projected their motivations clearly and even the components of the structure and order of the world doesn’t alter from it’s own non-ethical protocols; they are what they are  – which is beneficial to feeling you can trust Zimmer’s world of being exactly as it represents itself without a wench in the wheel throwing you out of its dimension.

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Similar to my readings on behalf of Antiphony, Riva has begun his on discourse on society, technology, religion and our place inside the world itself – how we view our living reality and how our living reality is altered by what is never completely in our control. He has written a challenging text because like the other author, he wants you to ponder the deeper meanings and take the Tag series to an awareness of recognising what could be unnoticed right before our eyes. The only key difference between the two, is Antiphony was a pursuit to understand a higher plane of existence outside of our limited sensory understanding of ‘reality’ which broached spirituality and other ideals of thought. Within the Tag series, Riva has augmented a society removed from any religious or spiritual pursuits, as the controlling rule is specifically geared towards putting humanity through a vise and only allowing humans to live a life deemed beneficial to the whole rather than the limited few.

In other words, nothing about living is determined by the individual but is rather systematically fused to an ordering rule (i.e. the government in this case; of which I can only presume is similar to The Hunger Games world based on the notes my friends have given me on it’s behalf). I think it’s safe to say my preference is always to have a level of spirituality kept inside a world – even if the world is futuristic, I’m not a particular fan of dissolving all thoughts and beliefs of a higher power; hence why I never read Phillip Pullman’s series beginning with The Golden Compass.

-quoted from my review of The Path by Paul Riva

Spirituality and Metaphysics are aptly explored in Zimmer’s Faraway Saga but rather than removing the precepts of religious thought & belief completely – to where it no longer has a place of origin or purpose, Zimmer found a way to ask intellectually stimulating questions of his characters – to where he desires them to recapture their own free will of mind & thought – to let them make the choices on behalf of what they believe or don’t believe without those choices being made for them.

He also approaches the context of this section of his world with an open mind – he let’s his characters walk a muddled path towards self-enlightenment due to how their world has repressed a lot of knowledge & information for the sake of population control and a future disconnected from personal growth. They want their citizens to remain in stasis intellectually as that would allow them to rule over them without conflict or disagreement.

Of the two, I prefer the approach Zimmer took – as it allows the door to remain open – for his world, his characters and the reader who is approaching his Dystopian viewpoint(s).

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One thing I appreciate most about how Eversley has approached writing this novel is how she fuses bits and bobbles of what you can conceptionalise against what could be a living reality not too far forward into the future. It’s a unique balance – to insert readers into a world with a Dystopian bent and a world which brings up hard philosophical questions about humanity, the pursuit of living authentically and the greater purpose behind life itself or even the art of survival if things go dangerously wrong.

Eversley has tapped into a niche of Dystopian where you can play with the genre – you can add not only depth of the world through the layers in which we entreat inside it’s boundaries but by how this world is stitched together – from the origins of their beliefs (hinted at) to the constructs of how they believe their rights as sentient beings should be maintained (similar to us) whilst enlarging the scope to have a dual presence of foe against foe – each fighting for the right to be the champion and each not honestly seeing how they could bridge their differences (if that’s even a plausible possibility) as war takes it’s toll. It’s not just the losses of life – it’s the wear and tear on the psyche and on morale of those who are fighting everyday to live one more day towards the ‘end goal’. For the Carbons and the Watchers, they are each moving towards a collision of sorts – at least, from what I can gather – if this debut is the introduction into the Watchers as a collective, than the second novel in the series surely picks up the momentum begun here through the point-of-view of the Carbons; to give a buoyancy between good and evil or what is perceived as good vs evil. It could all be an experiment gone wrong – or rather, an experiment which outgrew it’s purpose and turnt into something else completely.

If anything, there is so much your thinking about – trying to root out Eversley’s motivating inspiration and uncovering what is driving the story forward whilst trying to respect the world and pull back it’s layers to see what is really being set for you to see.

-quoted from my review of Watcher by A.J. Eversley

You might be curious why I decided to take you back down this particular readerly rabbit hole – of why I felt it necessary to re-visit the past Dystopian Reads in order to better augment my reasons for preferring Zimmer’s vision for his own. The reason, dear hearts, is quite simple – if you didn’t fully understand where I had traversed in the past – through these worlds the prior seven story-tellers had crafted for me to find, you might not fully understand how hard it has been to seek out writers’ who are crafting the kinds of Dystopian stories I am seeking.

For the most part, there have been positives and negatives across the board – hence, why I chose to add the quotations and to re-empathsis what worked for me and what did not ahead of revealling my ruminative thoughts on behalf of ‘Dream of the Navigator’ which at first glimpse brought back memories of ‘Flight of the Navigator’ (a motion picture) – a personal favourite of my childhood. I am unsure if the title has any cogitation of reference to the film, however, it had one for me.

Despite being a particularly particular reader of specific genres and thematics of literature – I remain optimistic I can find a niche of interest even in the most unapproachable literary arenas I find rather arduous to step inside. This is why I’ve continuously tried to read different Dystopian works of literature – finding a few qualms overall (four DNFs out of eight is telling in its own right!) and yet, I haven’t reached the plateau of lost hope!

I also want to share – I reverted back to my days of being able to read ‘chapter samplers’ to decide it ‘Dream of the Navigator’ would be a good ‘fit’ for me – those were the days where I could read a whole chapter digitally ahead of sourcing a print copy to read in full – back before my clustering chronic migraines were not occupying so many dear hours of my life and wrecking a lot of readerly hours off the clock as well. Prior to requesting a place on this tour, I happily found a sampler for this novel wherein despite the limitations I have nowadays with digital samplers, I gleamed enough to ‘wish to turn the pages!’ and find out what was going to happen next!

This isn’t the reaction I was expecting – I thought it would take me a bit longer than mere paragraphs to feel attached to the story-line – after all, this was a *Dystopian world!* – though, I admit, my readings of Julie E. Czerneda’s #TheClanChronicles has opened my eyes to worlds on shaky ground and where disparity can threaten to overrule.

Of all the stories I read in the past within this genre – ‘Watcher’ was the closest I felt towards finding a writer who could write a Dystopian world in a manner of approach I could appreciate. There were issues of course after I read ‘Watcher’ – as the series had to go on without me as a reader, as there were key choices I felt which worked against the plotting established in the first book – but this time round – I felt much more confident about the Faraway Saga than I had with Watcher – and that simply boils down to individual choices on behalf of the story-crafters who gave them to us.

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On my connection to Stephen Zimmer:

Over the past five years, Mr Zimmer has given me a lot of opportunities to engage with Speculative Lit authors – both through my readings of their stories (by the blog tours he’s hosted via Tomorrow Comes Media or through Seventh Star Press directly) and by letting me visit the radio frequencies by guest appearances on the Star Chamber Show (a blogtalkradio podcast). In Autumn of [2013] Zimmer was one of the first publicity and blog touring companies to give me a chance at being a ‘tour hostess’ and I am quite grateful he added me to his Blogger Team! I have spent 5 years appreciating the journey into Speculative Fiction – deepening my understanding of the genre and of sourcing out the writers who are writing the stories I love to be reading!

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Mr Zimmer through the twitterverse or whilst I host for Tomorrow Comes Media and Seventh Star Press and/or privately as well. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time or continuing to read their releases as they are available.

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Notation on Cover Art Design: As soon as I saw the cover art for this novel – the genre it resides started to shift in front of my eyes! I loved how much ‘light vs dark’ is playing in the design – how the splintered and mirrored images are playing off each other – whilst hinting towards ‘more’ – almost of a pinnacle to reach vs where the state of things currently lie. Even the rainbow (the symbol of hope) was aptly placed and the lush world ‘above’ counterbalances the darker shades of a technate driven world. I was beyond impressed!! I have long held the cover artists with Seventh Star Press in high esteem and this is another one which left me in ‘awe’ admiring it! Of course, the premise and the chapter sampler worked together to tempt me to read the chapters behind this art – but for the sake of art and illustration, this cover is wickedly impressive!!

Blog Book Tour | “Dream of the Navigator” (Book One: #FarawaySaga) by Stephen Zimmer #JorieReads her 8th #Dystopian story and has a surprise to share with her readers!Dream of the Navigator
Subtitle: Faraway Saga
by Stephen Zimmer
Illustrator/Cover Designer: Enggar Adirasa
Source: Publisher via Tomorrow Comes Media

Cities have been replaced by technates. It is a world of soaring apartments, hundreds of stories high, where technology measures, monitors and rations to meet the needs of the greater populace. It is a world of drones, in the air and on the ground, and advanced robotic beings who carry out much of the harder labor, security, and even pleasure assignments.

Those discontent, or who resist, are taken to Rehabilitation Centers, established after the embrace of the Greater Good Doctrine.

For most, virtual realms, substances, and entertainment provide escapes, but for Haven, Cayden, Jaelynn, and Salvador, growing up in Technate 6 is a restless existence.

A hunger for something more gnaws inside each of them. Discoveries await that open the gates to transcend time and space, and even new planes of existence. Nothing in their universe, or others, is impossible to explore.

What was once reality, now seems like an illusion in a deepening experience.

Begin the journey to Faraway, in Dream of the Navigator, the first book of the Faraway Saga!

Places to find the book:

Add to Riffle

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1948042536

Also by this author: Chronicles of Ave: Vol.1, (Author Interview) The Chronicles of Ave, (Guest Post) The Chronicles of Ave, (3-part) Interview Rayden Valkyrie TV Pilot

Genres: Dystopian, Genre-bender, Sci-Fantasy, Science Fiction, Techno-Thriller, YA Contemporary, YA Dystopian Lit, YA Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction


Published by Seventh Star Press

on 24th June, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 398

Published By: Seventh Star Press (@7thStarPress)
Available Formats: Softcover and Ebook

Converse on Twitter: #FarawaySaga, #DreamOfTheNavigator & #7thStar

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What I previously loved about Stephen Zimmer’s style:

You get the firm sense that Zimmer is a voracious reader who dips into a bit of everything that yields to his personal curiosity and allows his mind to wander through the gate of his imagination to deposit into a reader’s hands a wholly encased world whose dimensions are ever expanding into larger scales of tales yet to be told! Except for the few shorts, where I think he opted instead for traditional heroic bloodshed story-telling! This might draw a close eye towards the fact he appreciates the horror genre, and bits of that seep into this side of his fantasy worlds. It’s his passion for research that I applaud first and foremost, as not every writer goes to the length as he does and I always celebrate a writer I find who carries out research on this level! Secondly, he endeavours you to amplify his words into motion by the words he uses to provoke a visual response, in which backs up something he said in an interview I heard of his (whilst researching which questions I wanted to ask him in my own interview!) where he acclaimed his novels are set to embody a motion picture medium rather than the printed world of the book! This is a claim he rightly deserves to make!

He is one of the writers that I would genuinely be delighted to seek out (if it had not been for Tomorrow Comes Media!), as he parlays his fervent passion for research by interspersing what he uncovers into the tapestry by which Ave is threaded against! It’s a world that encompasses as many distinctively unique cultures, traditions, spirituality’s, and languages as our own living counterpart, and yet, it has something to give back to us as well!

The care he takes to diminish the force of the violence inside by counter-balancing it with a life lesson is absolute genius, because your not as apt to focus on the brief encounters of evil, but rather, on the benefits of what each short attempts to draw out of the character he’s chosen to hone in on instead! These characters, I perceive to be secondary ones in the larger stories (novels), yet, they have a specific life-path in Ave that cross-sects with the intervening entities or events that bring about the most metamorphose of growth! You can use me as a barometer in knowing that if I can handle these stories, you can as well! I have an intolerance for violence, but I cherish the soulful stories such as these that grant the reader a ruminative conclusion of what they’ve read!

-as previously expressed on my review of Chronicles of Ave: Volume One

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About Stephen Zimmer

Stephen Zimmer

Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels and novellas (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk), the Ragnar Stormbringer Tales (Sword and Sorcery), and the forthcoming Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian/Cross-Genre).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #FuellYourSciFi
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Posted Wednesday, 15 August, 2018 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, Astral Projection, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Discussions, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Dreams & Dreamscapes, Dystopian, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, Equality In Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Father-Daughter Relationships, Futuristic Fantasy, Gaming, Genre-bender, Good vs. Evil, Indie Author, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Science Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Tomorrow Comes Media, Virtual Reality, YA Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Audiobook Review | “Once Upon A Time in Venice” by Monique Roy, narrated by Kevin E. Green A Middle Grade Chapter Book about family, Italian heritage and the bonds between a grandson and his grandfather.

Posted Sunday, 5 August, 2018 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Audiobook Review Badge made by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Digital Audiobook by: I am a new blog tour hostess with Audiobookworm Promotions wherein I have the opportunity to receive audiobooks for review or adoption (reviews outside of organised blog tours) and host guest features on behalf of authors and narrators alike. I started hosting for Audiobookworm Promotions at the end of [2016] during “The Cryptic Lines” tour wherein I became quite happily surprised how much I am now keen on listening to books in lieu of reading them in print. My journey into audiobooks was prompted by a return of my chronic migraines wherein I want to offset my readings with listening to the audio versions.

I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Once Upon A Time in Venice” via the publicist at Audiobookworm Promotions in exchange for an honest review. This complimentary copy I received is part of the ‘Adopt an Audiobook’ programme where reviewers are given a 90 day window to listen and review the book. I was given a soft deadline where I could post my ruminative thoughts at an hour which worked for me on the day the review was due which in this instance is the 25th of July or at any point ahead of the 25th if I finished the audiobook sooner. This differs from a blog tour which has a more set schedule of posting. The audiobooks are offered to ‘adopt’ for review consideration and are given to readers to gauge their opinions, impressions and insight into how the audiobook is resonating with listeners. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

I am posting my review slightly overdue as the weeks leading up to the 25th as well as until the start of August were especially unkind for listening considering how many lightning storms I was trying to dodge just to stay connected! I decided to post this review the first week of August to allow myself enough time to finalise my thoughts on behalf of the story.

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Why this particular story impressed me and why I wanted to listen to it:

As I had forementioned previously on my last adopted audiobook review from Audiobookworm Promotions, I am shifting my reading life to be bent more towards listening to audiobooks than reading stories in print, as a purposeful quest to see if I can offset the repetitiveness of my chronic migraines, which have plagued me quite heavily this year.

I wanted to find a few audiobooks off the Adoption page as a way ‘back’ into reading, as I originally was going to listen to these stories during #Audiobookmonth which was in June. I hadn’t realised then how hard it would be to reclaim my reading life after my Spring migraines, which unfortunately didn’t just delay my listening hours with these audiobooks but with all books in general – which thankfully I restored back into my during the month of July!

This particular story felt like the kind of story I would love as it is set in Italy (I love Italian stories!) for starters and it is about the love shared between a grandson and a his grandfather. I grew up in a close knit family having two sets of grandparents and a great-grandmother, so right away, I had memories of my own bubbling to the surface which were reasons enough to want to listen to the story Ms Roy had written.

Secondly, I do not oft get to listen to Children’s Lit on audiobook – as generally speaking, the titles my library chooses to focus on are Adult Fiction. This gave me a chance to hear a story for Middle Grade listeners but through the course of my own listening, I realised this story is meant for all readers, of all ages! It is a timeless story about multi-generational families, the love that binds us to our heritage and how in the end, love can both shield us, protect us and enable us to have the courage to face the tomorrows we never felt we had the strength to meet.

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Audiobook Review | “Once Upon A Time in Venice” by Monique Roy, narrated by Kevin E. Green A Middle Grade Chapter Book about family, Italian heritage and the bonds between a grandson and his grandfather.Once Upon A Time in Venice
by Monique Roy
Source: Audiobook via Audiobookworm Promotions
Narrator: Kevin E. Green

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ASIN: B074CKBP9Y

Genres: Children's Literature, Middle Grade, Short Story or Novella


Published by Self Published Author

on 1st August, 2017

Format: Audiobook | Digital

Length: 1 hours, 27 minutes (unabridged)

Self-Published Audiobook

Monique Roy | Site | @MonWriter1

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Posted Sunday, 5 August, 2018 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 21st Century, Audiobook, Audiobookworm Promotions, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Children's Literature, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Cookery, Cultural & Religious Traditions, Early Reader | Chapter Books, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Family Life, Foodie Fiction, Indie Author, Italy, Juvenile Fiction, Literature for Boys, Middle Grade Novel, Modern Day, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity

Blog Book Tour | “Trial at Mount Koya” (Book No.6 Hiro Hattori novels) by Susan Spann A beautifully atmospheric #HistoricalMystery atop a sacred mountain during a harrowing blizzard lends a suspenseful backdrop to evolving drama!

Posted Friday, 13 July, 2018 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: I am a reviewer for Prometheus Books and their imprints starting in [2016] as I contacted them through their Edelweiss catalogues and Twitter. I appreciated the diversity of titles across genre and literary explorations – especially focusing on Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction and Scientific Topics in Non-Fiction.

I asked to join the blog tour for ‘Trial at Mount Koya’ as last Summer, I was meant to participate on the tour for IGA before it was cancelled. I love celebrating this series, as despite the fact I originally received both CLAWS & BLADE on a blog tour, I am never certain which story I tip my hat to read is going to become a ‘beloved series’ of mine. Each story which touches my heart is truly a special discovery as I am quite particular about what I read and the kind the stories I hold quite dear.

This Spring, when I received the book in the post, one thing happily surprised me! I was quoted on the Press Release for the first time in relation to my prior readings of the series itself! Talk about a moment where your brilliantly gobsmacked to see your quote and the words you used to fuse your thoughts to your blog in reference to how reading about Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori resonates with you directly! I was both humbled and excited knowing my words are reaching others as this lovely novel takes flight into the world and into new reader’s hearts!

I received a complimentary copy of “Trial at Mount Koya” direct from the publisher Seventh Street Books (an imprint of Prometheus Books) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. Whilst I am participating on the blog tour hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours of which I am an avid hostess as Historical Fiction and the eclectic route I take through the subgenres therein is a blissitude of its own!

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Why I personally love *devouring!* the Hiro Hattori Novels:

Series Overview: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo investigate crime in medieval Japan, from the palaces of the samurai to the colorful world of Kyoto’s theater district—and beyond. The series weaves fictional plotlines through one of the most exciting—and dangerous—times in Japanese history.

Ms Spann has created a series for the historical reader at heart! A bit of a backstory about my ardent admiration for this portal into 16th Century Japan:

I still marvel at how I came to know of the series through the second release Blade of the Samurai whilst being blessed to have read the series from the beginning in Claws of the Cat. Each step along the way my heart has felt pulled into the drama and the suspense behind how the friendship Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori have shaped their lives – there is a lot going on in the series, from a historical perspective and from the world’s point of view of where Ms Spann has alighted us into her lovely 16th Century world. Her world-building is what makes this such a keen series to feel a part of as you nearly take for granted it’s not the 16th Century each time you place yourself in step with her characters!

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On where we left Father Mateo & Hiro Hattori:

I loved seeing Father Mateo react to Hiro’s relatives – from his grandmother to his mother to his cousin – each in turn showed a different side to Hiro but they also revealled a bit about themselves. Such as when the priest realised he was amongst those who are emotionally removed from the crime committed here because they themselves are trained for such crimes as shinboi. They have such a different life compared to the kind of life a priest would accept or understand; something he finds difficult to process time to time such as now. As he gathers information about certain aspects of what transpired he is put into uncomfortable positions to overhear things which do shock him a bit to learn.

Finding Hiro’s grandmother Akiko had taken in an orphaned girl and named her Tane was an interesting twist to the main plot. Especially as Ms Spann showed how the girl could only communicate through Sigh Language – as it spoke to homegrown signs the girl devised herself and used to speak on her behalf to to the family she lost. It also pointed to the fact, those who are hard of hearing or are unable to speak were not limited to only occupying later centuries but were alive during previous generations as well. It was interesting to hear the reasons why these persons were kept from records and observations in regards to populations. Sadly this is still being practiced today – of removing marginalised persons from historical records in an ill-attempt to have them erased from our memory.

Poisons are a tricky beast – they are effectively one of my favourite devices used in mysteries because of how diverse the choice of poisons are to be found irregardless of the century a story is told. In this one, what was interesting is the layers – of how one crime led to another (a near miss) and how if you looked at these from a distance, there was a layering of how someone wished harm to some but not to others; as if there was a message being carried out in the delivery of the crimes.

This is how Ms Spann holds my attention – she makes me endeavour to sleuth a bit ahead of her characters – daring me to seek out the hidden threads of how everything connects giving me an intellectually robust mystery I readily find enjoyment in engaging inside. I love seeing how her mind ferrets out her secondary story-lines – of how all the pieces of each character’s tapestry is finely orchestrated to be revealled bit by bit and even then, there are surprises for us – either in their character’s heart or the will of how their perspective might change as they live through different experiences.

She holds a particular attention towards detailed continuity and of evoking an enlarged sense of the wider world in which feudal Japan existed; of how all the branches of individual lives were being affected by the rise of power and of the augmentation of shifting tides of alliances therein. There is a hefty potboiler of dramatic revelation and exploration of what makes a country tick from the inside out whilst not to be overshadowed by the pursuit of a humbled priest who takes his personal mission deeply seriously as his soul’s intended journey for this life he’s led. As we weave in and out of the series, we see the landscape of Japan shifting, of how lives are being affected by the shogun currently in reign and of how even the shinobi themselves were not immune to the growing changes within their world.

-quoted from my review of Betrayal at Iga

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On my connection to Susan Spann:

I started visiting the chats hosted by @LitChat in the latter months of 2013, as it was around the time of the conference at The Betsy in which I started to cross paths with regular chatters, amongst whom were Natalia Sylvester (début novelist of “Chasing the Sun”) and Susan Spann. I am unsure which month I first started to notice Ms. Spann as a friendly presence who always reminded me of myself — someone who provided cheerful commentary, engaging questions for each visiting guest author, and a wicked knowledge base on a variety of topics. Generally speaking, I always click-over to read a person’s Twitter profile, but whilst engaged in those #LitChat(s) I felt like it was this magical rendezvous for the bookish and those who are attuned to bookish culture.

In this way, it wasn’t until I learnt of Blade of the Samurai was going on a blog tour that I decided to discover a bit more about her! In so doing, I learnt who she was ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak! I always considered her one of my ‘friends in the twitterverse’ but I never disclosed this to her until I was on the (Blade of the Samurai) blog tour in September 2014! Such serendipity as the tour brought us a bit closer and I am grateful that Twitter is a social-positive method of reaching past our distances in geography to connect to people who share a passion for the written word. We have continued to remain in touch although we do not get to ‘meet-up’ on Twitter as often as we once did due to our schedules in recent years.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Ms Spann through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst attending #LitChat or in private convos. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author, whether I am reading a book by them for the first time or continuing to read their series in sequence of publication.

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Blog Book Tour | “Trial at Mount Koya” (Book No.6 Hiro Hattori novels) by Susan Spann A beautifully atmospheric #HistoricalMystery atop a sacred mountain during a harrowing blizzard lends a suspenseful backdrop to evolving drama!Trial on Mount Koya
Subtitle: A Hiro Hattori Novel : A Shinobi Mystery
by Susan Spann
Source: Direct from Publisher

Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo head up to Mount Koya, only to find themselves embroiled in yet another mystery, this time in a Shingon Buddhist temple atop one of Japan’s most sacred peaks.

November, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo travel to a Buddhist temple at the summit of Mount Koya, carrying a secret message for an Iga spy posing as a priest on the sacred mountain. When a snowstorm strikes the peak, a killer begins murdering the temple’s priests and posing them as Buddhist judges of the afterlife–the Kings of Hell. Hiro and Father Mateo must unravel the mystery before the remaining priests–including Father Mateo–become unwilling members of the killer’s grisly council of the dead.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

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ISBN: 9781633884151

Also by this author: Author Q&A : Susan Spann (on behalf of her Shinobi mysteries), Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, Flask of the Drunken Master, Interview with Susan Spann (FLASK), The Ninja's Daughter, Author Interview (Hiro Hattori Novels), Betrayal at Iga

Also in this series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, Flask of the Drunken Master, The Ninja's Daughter, Betrayal at Iga, (Interview) Trial on Mount Koya


Genres: Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction


Published by Seventh Street Books

on 3rd July, 2018

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 256

Published By: Seventh Street Books (@SeventhStBooks)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

About Ms Susan Spann

Susan Spann

Susan Spann is the award-winning author of the Hiro Hattori mystery novels, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo.

Susan began reading precociously and voraciously from her preschool days in Santa Monica, California, and as a child read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest.

Susan is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year, a former president of the Northern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (National and Sacramento chapters), the Historical Novel Society, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is represented by literary agent Sandra Bond of Bond Literary Agency.

When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, photography, and hiking. She lives in Sacramento with her husband and two cats, and travels to Japan on a regular basis.

In 2018, whilst under contract with Prometheus Books, Ms Spann is travelling throughout Japan to climb the #100Summits. She blogs her mountaineering adventures, shares her photography on both Instagram and Twitter and is writing the book which will debut in 2020 under the tentative title: 100 Summits.

Converse via: #HiroHattoriNovels + #HistoricalMystery or #HistMyst

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Friday, 13 July, 2018 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 16th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Equality In Literature, Feudal Japan History, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, History, Japan, Japanese Fiction, Japanese History, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity

Blog Book Tour | “The Secret Life of Mrs London” by Rebecca Rosenberg

Posted Thursday, 15 February, 2018 by jorielov , , , , , , , 11 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Books By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “The Secret Life of Mrs London” direct from the author Rebecca Rosenberg in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I was interested in the premise behind this novel:

My first entrance into Biological Historical Fiction was prior to becoming a book blogger – it was when I read the back-story about Mrs (Charles) Dickens in the beautifully conceived novel Girl in a Blue Dress. At the time, I was mesmorised by how realistically the story-line flowed and how wonderfully intricate the novel revealled the finer points of how Mrs Dickens had much more to give than what she personally felt she had in self-worth. Another critical entry in this section of Literature for me was Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald of which I had the happenstance to read as an ARC – the narrative clarity of Zelda’s voice inside this novel was incredibly layered! I still think about my readings of this novel – as I spread it out over several months, savouring the respite I had outside it but hungry for more insight into Zelda’s life all the same. It is a haunting account truly of one woman’ spiral and her journey back to ‘self’ out of the chaos of health issues which were never fully addressed until the very last chapter of her life. It’s beyond tragic how Zelda never felt she realised her own artistic merit in the literary world and how suppressed she had become as a writer due to her overbearing husband whose ego would not allow him to admit her writerly strength of voice.

Over the past four and a half years, I’ve encountered quite a large number of entries of Biological Historical Fiction – each in turn giving me such an incredibly humbling experience as I held close to the whispers of truth etching out of the lives by the living persons who had lived these lives I was now attached to through the renditions the writers had given them in their novels. When I read the premise about Mrs London and how her life intersected with the Houdini’s – there was a moment in my mind as I contemplated the plot itself wherein I felt I heard an echo of Zelda’s life. Of two women who were caught inside a marriage which was not the healthiest of relationships for them nor was it a marriage built on love or trust. They were each caught into a cycle of living which worked against them and in part, this is why I wanted to read Mrs London’s story. I wanted to know how she worked through the anguish of living in Jack’s shadow but also, how she dealt with the absence of having a husband who appreciated her and held her interests in his own heart.

In regards to Jack London – although I have an omnibus of his stories (in hardback) which my family gave me as young girl, there was something about his stories which put me off reading them. I could say the same about Dickens, too. When it came to disappearing inside either of their stories a part of me ‘held back’ interest despite the fact they both had concepts of stories I felt I would have loved reading. And, in turn, I came to know them better through their film adaptations than I did in their original canon of release! Uniquely enough. The two which stood out to me were White Fang and A Christmas Carol – which of course, remain two my favourite films of all time. The latter of which I consistently seek out as they re-invent the wheel every so many years in how to properly explore the story & the message within it.

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Blog Book Tour | “The Secret Life of Mrs London” by Rebecca RosenbergThe Secret Life of Mrs London
by Rebecca Rosenberg
Source: Author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

Places to find the book:

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ISBN: 9781542048736

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Women's Studies


Published by Lake Union Publishing

on 30th January, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 348

In retrospect, after re-reading my review, I realised I needed to add the flames to this review, as I felt the sensuality and sexuality explored in the story was on the higher end of what I am comfortable about finding in either Romance or Historical Romance novels. I also felt in this story, the subject was threaded throughout the context of the novel and re-highlighted to the point where it nearly felt like it was the main focus of the story rather than on the dynamics of the who the characters were outside their boudoir exploits.

four-half-flames

Published By: Lake Union Publishing

Formats Available: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #HistFic, #HistoricalFiction + #JackLondon

About Rebecca Rosenberg

Rebecca Rosenberg

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Thursday, 15 February, 2018 by jorielov in 20th Century, Adulterous Affair, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Discussions, Charmian London, Creative Arts, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Disabilities & Medical Afflictions, Disillusionment in Marriage, During WWI, Equality In Literature, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Inspired By Author OR Book, Jack London, Life of Thirty-Somethings, Mental Health, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Psychological Abuse, Realistic Fiction, Self-Harm Practices, Taboo Relationships & Romance, the Nineteen Hundreds, Vulgarity in Literature, Women's Fiction, Women's Health, Women's Rights, Women's Suffrage, Writer, Zelda Fitzgerald