Today kicks off #WyrdAndWonder – a month long Fantastical celebration of Fantasy Lit (for those of us who are book bloggers – we tend to do an all-out binge fest of #Fantasy) and all the wondrous ways in which Fantasy can become a forethought of interest in our lives. This can express itself through exploring other mediums wherein Fantasy can reign and become a celebration of the fantastical. As the event gets underway, I have a rather uniquely new post to share with my readers this morning which showcases a Speculative Fiction novel which I felt was quite a lovely discovery due to how interesting the plot felt to me when I first read the premise!
I realise it might fit better under the @SciFiMonth (ie. Sci Fi November, #SciFiMonth) umbrella of inclusion being this is a Science Fiction Post-Apocalyptic novel – however, I like other #WyrdAndWonder participants like to blur the lines between Science Fiction & Fantasy – where even if I’m celebrating one of the genres during one of the yearly events, there are strong odds I could be caught reading the other genre! Laughs.
Perhaps the same is true for you, dear hearts!?
The reason why is because I LOVE Speculative Fiction so dearly much – its hard to just read it twice a year! lol This one is a special selection of mine to be featuring as it dips into one of the genres I do not generally seek out to read – Dystopian & Post-Apocalyptic – as these are themes I find harder to source when seeking out stories to read which are not gritty in graphic violence and are a story I can sink my Speculative teeth into without feeling overcome by the theme itself. This particular story also focuses on two other interests of mine as a reader: astral projection and telepathy – as I was definitely the girl who grew her paranormal love off of tv series which focused on parapyschological investigations! I definitely want to read this lovely one day – if only to see how the author treated those sections and to see how she pulled us through her vision of how those concepts can be explored in literature.
I’m hopeful once my library re-opens this can become one of my next purchase requests – as I dearly wanted to read it but I have to await a print copy. My libraries are quite helpful when I want to seek out Indie Authors & Indie Publishers to be reading – they accept either print (locally) or audio (regionally) which keeps me well consumed I must admit in a lot of lovely Indie writ stories!
My featured author today is the first author I’m hosting for OWI – Other Worlds Ink Blog Tours – a touring company I discovered whilst I read a wickedly delightful Historical Fantasy novel by Edale Lane. I’ll be hosting a blog tour focusing on Ms Lane’s sequel to “The Merchant’s of Milan” lateron this May – however, I am thankful I found her via Tomorrow Comes Media otherwise I might not have found OWI whilst following her blog tour route – as more than one of the stops had someone hosting for OWI! (big smiles)
This post was a lovely surprise for me as I signed on to host something special by the author and I am wicked thankful I had! I *love!* grab bag surprises – for me, getting a wholly original post by an author on a blog tour is just about as wicked sweet as it can get – I loved how she approached how to ‘interview’ herself and how to give a well-rounded impression about her personality as well. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know the author through this quirky interview and conversation!
The cost was great. The population has been devastated. But for the survivors, utopia has arrived.
Then the suspicious death of a young person forces Amber to question her world like she never has before. The Contentedness Council is after her, determined to protect their perfect society. Now Amber must unbury her city’s repressed past, expose the crimes that led to their utopia, and find a way to stop the Council from killing the world… again.
Join astral-projecting asexual Amber and her telepathic sister as they fight to save the human race from extermination!
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.
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.
→ 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  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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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  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.
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!!
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!
Converse on Twitter: #FarawaySaga, #DreamOfTheNavigator & #7thStar
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!
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.
My path originally crossed with Ms. Heal during her blog tour last year (2013), when her third novel in the History Mystery series was making it’s way through the book blogosphere whilst stopping on Inspirational fiction blogs I frequently visit. It was on one of these tour stops I had the happy joy in winning a copy of “Every Hill & Mountain” and ever since then, I had had it in mind to blog about this beautiful time travel series for Sci Fi November! I contacted the author about this particular idea and she offered to send me the first two novels in the series with matching cover-art to the third novel, as I have the original cover-art designs for the History Mystery series – where the house is featured but is not prominent as there is a girl featured as well on “Time and Again”.
Therefore, I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author Deborah Heal, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Inspired to Read the Series:
What originally drew me into the folds of this particular time travel series is the overall premise, of how an old house can become a portal of a window into time travel! The idea of having the thread of a time travel narrative worked through the Inspirational side of literature was also an appeal, as I was quite curious how the science behind travelling in time might be explored and explained inasmuch as how the story would alter or change from traditional science fiction roots which are published through mainstream markets. As a hybrid reader whose mind is always open and seeking out new inventive ways of telling stories, I was most curious on how an INSPY writer would treat the scope of the story as much as the science behind it.
Abby Thomas is spending the summer in a run-down old house with a bratty pre-teen named Merrideth she is supposed to tutor. Not a dream job. But it does come with perks.
There’s John Roberts, a devastatingly attractive neighbor who is almost too wonderful to be real.
And there’s the new computer program Beautiful Houses—also too amazing to be real. No one knows how it works, but with it she can rewind and fast-forward the lives of all the people who ever lived in the house, including Charlotte Miles.
In 1858, the house is a train stop on the Alton & Chicago Line. And Charlotte is stuck there serving meals to the passengers, wondering if she’ll ever get to have any fun. And then she meets two travelers who change her life forever.
There’s James McGuire with whom she falls in love. And there’s his boss, a young Springfield lawyer named Abraham Lincoln. His debate with political opponent Stephen Douglas catapults him onto the national stage. And it inspires Charlotte to take up the cause of abolition.
Deborah Heal, the author of the Time and Again "history mystery" trilogy, which has been described as "Back to the Future meets virtual reality with a dash of Seventh Heaven thrown in," was born not far from the setting of her novel Every Hill and Mountain and grew up just down the road from the settings of Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy.
Today she lives with her husband in Monroe County, Illinois, not far from the setting of Once Again: an inspirational novel of history, mystery & romance. She enjoys reading, gardening, and learning about regional history. She has three grown children, five grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout, a.k.a. Dr. Bob in Unclaimed Legacy.
She loves to interact with her readers, who may learn more about the history behind the books at her website and her Facebook author page.
Time travelling within the walls of an older home:
Heal has a good way of giving small details out about the condition of the old house, where you become delighted in finding out about how the wood and/or the fixtures are represented now verse how they would have been viewed when the house was originally built. There are certain passages that elude to the craftsmanship of the care put into it’s structure, as much as a curiosity about certain staircases and what could be found outside in the barn. It has this rambling appeal to it, as if you think you know everything there is to be known about the house itself, yet it is within that moment of certainty that another mystery presents itself that is not as easily explained!
I liked the pace of how Abby encouraged Merrideth to seek out the charm of her new dwelling as much as to find how educational lessons of life and study can become if you ‘think outside the routine’ and ‘structure’ of traditional learning! Abby starts to seek a way to have the ‘house’ transform learning in a way that Merrideth can find tangible connections between what she’s learning and what she can see through experience. Read More
I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Ghost Bride” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher William Morrow, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
The reason I wanted to be on the tour:
I am always amazed at the journey we take as readers towards reading a particular book or becoming entranced by the words an author leaves behind for us to find. We (here refers to the collectively diverse readership of the world) all strive towards reading books when that leap of ignited joy and mirth of the discovery catalysts inside our mind and jumps out through our excited speech whilst we’re sharing the bits and bobbles of what we’ve just been blessed to discover with another bookish soul. Those wickedly delightful moments where you stumble across quite an extraordinary story during a more than ordinary hour of your life, and within that moment, you’re on the precipice of taking a journey to a place quite different from where you live and occupy your own murmurings on life; a place that will feel as though it bewitched you as it spoke to you to be read, to be devoured, and consumed.
When I first started reading a heap of recollections and ruminations on behalf of The Ghost Bride during the Autumn on 2013, I was a very new book blogger growing my wings and entering into the book blogosphere myself. I was sorting things out as I went along, and getting my feet wet with blog tours, reviewing books in a style that felt right for me, and gaining a bit of ground within the network of book bloggers in general who are as diverse as the four winds. I appreciate the fact that each of us who blogs about our reading lives takes on a different angle of insight as we read and review the books we want to share with the dear hearts who find us. It was during this particular exploration I came across a review where the blogger had not found the story was able to resonate with her but she had hoped others who appreciated everything that she felt did not work for her might work for someone else instead. Coincidently, I attempted to re-find the book blogger and my own comments therein, but it is lost out in the blogosphere at this point in time. She encouraged me in a way that other reviewers and bloggers hadn’t at that time to seek out the novel. I knew after reading her thoughts I could soak into The Ghost Bride.
I had not thought much about this at the time, but over the course of months since I have found that to read a negative or neutral review is quite an extraordinary thing; especially if you were like me, and took out such a positive take-away! I mused about that for a moment, and thought, but isn’t that why we blog?! Isn’t that why we read book blogs? To garnish a wider net of opinion, commentary, and muse filled thoughts of the readers behind the blogs themselves? To help us better articulate an idea of which novel might whet our palette of interest and encourage our own spirit to read the works of an author we’ve not yet become acquainted with?
In September of 2013, I also had the joy of contacting the author whilst she was hosting a bookaway through Shelf Awareness; I did not win the book, as my reply was received after the book was given away, however, these were my original thoughts on why the book captivated me in such a keen way:
Whilst I was participating in a bookish community event [Bout of Books], I was led to a variety of lovely blogs, whereupon I stumbled across a review of this book! Ironically, the reader wasn’t as enlightened by it as I would be, as they were not a keen fan of literary fiction, but its that review that earmarked this book in my mind to read! :) Isn’t that interesting!? It simply proves that there are as many diverse readers as there are books!!
Ever since then, I’ve had it in the back of my mind to make sure to see if my local library is going to be getting a copy of this lovely book, as I am a proud supporter of libraries!! I do love to buy books as much as the next person, but only when budget affords! What I wanted to say about your lovely book, is how heart-wretching and heart-aching the story sounds from afar! Talk about a character who has to undertake a journey that is not quite easy to understand, much less explain! I have watched documentaries on tv that showcase different traditions, not only for marriage but for a person’s life, as one draws to mind where in one country they select young girls who have the essence of the reincarnated deity and that that girl must live in confinement without the ability to communicate or speak, until she’s around 16!! She ‘ages out’ of the life, and is allowed to resume living, only to find that the available men are afraid that if they are with her in life and marriage that she would be a curse not a blessing! I wish I could draw to mind the exact details of the country & of this ritual, you’ll have to forgive me on this short-coming! However, the reason I drew it to mind, is because your character Li Lan is being placed into a situation that she didn’t choose and yet its a situation which custom and tradition demands!
Ms. Choo kindly replied back to me, and helped me remember that the documentary I had watched was about the “living goddesses” of Nepal! I am not certain why I had not had the proper chance to borrow this book from my local library, but as I have oft mentioned before, there are moments where we are meant to read certain books, and perhaps the time in which I was meant to read The Ghost Bride simply had not yet arrived! I am always very mindful of how coincidental certain moments are in life have turnt out to be quite serendipitous instead. It all depends on your perception of how life unfolds along your path.
Today is my blog’s official 1st birthday and it is an honour that I am celebrating it with a novel that quite bewitched me whilst it originally toured the book blogosphere! Today let’s celebrate the diversity of readers and the joy of selecting books that challenge us and dare us to always be willing to step outside our comfort zones and engage inside a narrative that is wholly different from our own cultural background yet grounded in a connective thread we can all relate too.
*a blog birthday is the day in which a blog goes live to the public whereas a blogoversary is the celebration of the day you created your blog
Note: The curious bit for me is that I travelled through the original blog book tour for “The Ghost Bride” last year (also hosted by TLC Book Tours), within the first months I was a book blogger with a newly launched blog! To look back on my reflections of wanting to read the novel whilst visiting other book bloggers who were reviewing it and now, a full year forward to where I have the opportunity to read the novel myself and post my own ruminations on my own book blog is quite wicked karma! I have felt as though I have travelled with the book before it reached my own heart and hands to read!
A wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists
Malaya, 1893 Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt Chinese family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives a proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, ghost marriages are often meant to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a comfortable home for the rest of her days, but at what cost?
As she reluctantly considers the offer, Li Lan is unwillingly drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities and vengeful spirits. There Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.
Yangsze Choo is a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. She lives in California with her husband and their two children, and loves to eat and read (often at the same time).
The author had the honour of being selected to read her novel aloud for the audiobook version of The Ghost Bride, and after listening to Chapter 1, I can see why they selected her as she has a captivating speaking voice which brings the words off the page to life in such a lovely manner! Click to read the full story on her blog!
Yangsze Choo’s Introduction to “The Ghost Bride” via Yangsze Choo
Inspired to Share: I am always fascinated by the back-story revelations of an author’s work, as to me, to hear about the process of their inspiration towards writing a novel quite literally heightens the joy for me as a reader. I realise there are other readers who would disagree with me on that score, but I have always found something quite remarkable in how stories are written and the methodology of each writer who chooses to pen a story to give back to the world in the form of a book. I was struck by the joy of how a bit of knowledge and research into one particular vein of thought led Ms. Choo to not only expand on a seedling of an idea but gave it such a measure of a breath to illuminate it fully by the scope she took the story!
An Eastern Ghost Story and how it differs from the West:
The first main difference I found is an Eastern Ghost story is rooted within the relationship and interpersonal connection to the dead rather than focusing on the psychological thrill of having a ghost crossing into your lifepath. Western stories tend to focus on the shock and intensity of finding an ethereal presence in your life, an interruption of your hours, and a mindful sea of curious unknown questions and ramifications that are difficult to process and work through. There tends to be a lot of factors pulling the ties together for a Western ghost story, which parallel the leftover work of the deceased and a willingly earnest desire to see the work completed by a second or third party who was not particularly connected to the events or the deceased in life. From what I am gathering in The Ghost Bride the main concern is not unfinished business but rather a continuance of a life cut short of being lived. A way of progressing the life of the deceased to a fulfilling present; merely without their flesh and bone presence.
Elements of the story had me thinking back to my love of the South American and Latin American cultural celebration known as Day of the Dead in which family surround their loved ones’ graves and celebrate the life they lived whilst they were alive. It is a ritual influenced celebration and joyous one at that! Traditionally this has been a holiday centered around Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve) and All Saint’s Day (All Soul’s Day) in Mexico, and there lies the connection for me, as I was able to explore my love of the cultural heritage of Mexico whilst I travelled there as a teen. My furlough was in Summer, not Autumn, which was the only disappointment in regards to not seeing the festivities live in person.
The Ghost Bride: Western vs Chinese Ghost Stories via James Cham
To extend into this a bit more I felt it best to allow the author