Category: Bullies and the Bullied

Book Review | “Call Me Amy” by Marcia Strykowski – a #middlegrade coming-of age story set amidst the rescue of a baby seal

Posted Tuesday, 7 October, 2014 by jorielov , , , 7 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

Call Me Amy by Marcia Strykowski
Published By: Luminis Books (@LuminisBooks) | Blog
Official Author WebsitesSite | @MarciaStry | GoodReads

Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook

Converse via: #CallMeAmy, #middlegrade, & #KidLit

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Amy’s Choice” virtual book tour through JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm. As this was the second novel in a book series, I was able to put in a request to receive the first novel Call Me Amy of which I received a complimentary copy of direct from the publisher Luminis Books without obligation to review. I received my complimentary copy of Amy’s Choice direct from JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I am always on the hunt for wicked quality Children’s Literature – stories which carve out a special niche of childhood innocence and the mirth of exploring how to find growth through life experiences. I want to find even more stories than I had as a young child myself – striving to find the writers who keep the tone of their novels radiating with light and the darkness can be erased through the resolutions at the ending of any conflict that a character needs to overcome. I like finding stories which give children a free sense about how to differentiate between right and wrong, whilst allowing them the grievance for understanding there is a measure of wisdom in living through our mistakes, our misunderstandings, and our ability to be humbled through adversity. I like stories that break down barriers and also serve to teach a lesson of stewardship and diplomacy. When I first saw this series going on tour on behalf of the publisher’s showcase, I simply knew that I wanted to take part and high shine a light on two stories that would benefit any library of a child or adult who appreciates the same types of stories I am passionately addicted to myself.

Book Review | “Call Me Amy” by Marcia Strykowski – a #middlegrade coming-of age story set amidst the rescue of a baby sealCall Me Amy
by Marcia Strykowski
Source: Publisher via JKS Communications

For 13-year-old Amy Henderson, 1973 has been a lonely and uneventful year in her small Maine fishing village. With the help of a wounded seal pup, she gets to know Craig, who slinks around in an oversized army jacket. A new law against handling wild marine mammals brings suspense to the story. Where can they keep Pup until he heals? Their only hope is to trust Miss Cogshell, an elderly woman keeping to herself amidst jeers from the local kids, who catches them sneaking Pup into her woodshed in the middle of the night. Throughout the book, small challenges prepare Amy for her greatest one of all. A challenge that leads her to discover that everyone, herself included, has a voice worth hearing.

Call Me Amy was selected for the Best Children’s Book List by Bank Street College of Education.
For readers aged 9 & up.
Published by Luminis Books, 2013.

Places to find the book:

Also by this author: Amy's Choice

Series: Amy,


Also in this series: Amy's Choice


Genres: Children's Literature, Middle Grade


Published by Luminis Books

on 15th May, 2013

Format: Paperback

Pages: 176

Author Biography:

Marcia Strykowski

Marcia Strykowski works at a public library. Earlier, between earning her BS in Fine Arts and raising her children, she worked for seven years in textbook publishing. Marcia participates in writing groups and enjoys family, art, music, travel, and theater. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. After numerous magazine and anthology contributions, CALL ME AMY was Marcia’s first novel. It was chosen for the 2014 Bank Street College of Education’s prestigious Best Books of the Year list. AMY’S CHOICE, a sequel to CALL ME AMY, is now available. You can find out more about her and her books at marciastrykowski.com.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Maine : as a setting:

Northern New England always held an appeal for a girl like me who grew up on a state known for it’s panhandle, fierce fire of a sun, and the fact that at the southern most tip of her state you could wave to Cuba! I kid you not. Being as far South as you muster an interest to live, I oft wondered what it would be like to live somewhere blissfully different – where the changing seasons outweighed the blight of walking through volcanic heat and where you could snuggle into a season rather than being fearful of the extreme storm warning alerts blasting off your tv, radio, and reverse 911 phone messages. Anywhere where the pace of life wasn’t contingent upon tourism or at least wasn’t as blatant about flaunting that it was would even be a wickeder place by far. To settle into the texture of a place rather than the presumptions of a state’s reputation always felt ideal; where you could absorb into the curiousness nature of it’s townes, and visit with locals who would always have a hearty conversation to share.

For me, it was simply the fact that the Northern states were as far away from the Southern hemisphere as you could wrangle yourself without leaving the United States completely! All the top tier states flitted through my imagination as being the most seriously awesome place to live throughout my life, due to their hugged close nature of being a stepping stone into Canada. And, Canada to me was always the most unique place I could readily visit without needing to cross the North Atlantic and brave the high seas over a jaunt in a plane.

The whispering assurances that this novel is set in Maine is a credit to a writer who happens to call New England home herself. She has carefully etched a sounding stone of believability into how the setting is conveyed and how unique it is to call Coastal Maine home. I’ll admit that short visits are not enough to fully eclipse what is there to be found. It is a unique stretch of coastline that ebbs you further into it’s graces the more you go up and down Route 1. The road which angles and stretches itself from the upper lip of Massachusetts and zips you into New Brunswick outside of Eastport; the city which produces my absolute favourite brand of stone ground mustard!

My Review of Call Me Amy:

The opening pages of Call Me Amy took me back to my first visit to Mid-Coast Maine, as I spent a bit of time around the area where Thomaston is located. My favourite memory of Thomaston is getting to see National Treasure whilst only paying $5 dollars for the ticket, a large popcorn, and a drink! I was properly gobsmacked you could get away with that price as even though it was the mid-2000s the prices were far steeper down in the Southeast! To the brink that going to see the film was the true joy over the snacks. The atmosphere of that cinemas was friendly with an old fashioned way of putting you at ease as soon as you walked through the door! Set around a backdrop of a rock manufacture across the street, the ocean not too much further past it – you had a unique impression of going to see a film was anything but ordinary in this small coastal towne! Being able to chat ahead of the show, munching on popcorn and getting free refills for your drink and popcorn prior to being seated was the supreme best! I think I was akin to Mum realising that we both felt that “we were somewhere wicked good” at the moment, as getting refills on snacks isn’t as easy back home. We loved the interpersonal touches and the manner in which we felt welcomed ‘home’ rather than being ‘from away’; we bonded over a deep passion for cinema and for the actors who create the stories we love to watch. It should always be as keen to go to the movies and I never forgot how much I ached to see National Treasure 2 up in Maine rather than back from where I had came.

I could relate directly to Amy’s sense of wonder about reading and the necessity of longing for a library located close to home. I was thankful I had branches throughout the cities and townes I lived in as a child for having locations within a commutable distance of where my house was located. Never close enough to walk too as everything was so spread out and in some ways, I could relate to her angst about always needing to travel a bit of distance to do what you wanted to do most. I do not think she realised though how blessed she was that she could walk outside her front door and easily walk to most of the places she wanted to visit regularly. There is a thread of narrative inside the story that reminded me a heap of the tv film Polly which was based around Pollyanna. Celeste Holm played an incredible role in bringing to life Miss Snow and I was equally captivated by another character inside the film Because of Winn-Dixie: Gloria Dump. Centrally important to the growth of the young characters in each of these stories is having the strength of an unexpected teacher, advisor, and mentor. My heart swelled with joy seeing how Strykowski knitted Miss Cogshell into the heart of Call Me Amy.

Amy’s voice in the novel is bang-on brilliant for her age in the story, as her curiosity and inquisitiveness about her life and the world around her comes out strongly perceptive. Her heart is open to the possibilities that first impressions are not always as receptively accurate as you first think they would be as much as she cares for those who are in need. I enjoyed watching her slowly emerge out of her shell once she had a project she could focus on that was outside of her own worries and insecurities. Amy starts to see the intricate balance of life, how staying true to who you are is key, and how being open to learning from misunderstandings enriches the spirit of who you become.

On the writing style of Marcia Strykowski:

I slipped into this novel as easily as I used to curl into the sofa to watch Flipper or Thunder Bay, a true note of appreciation goes to Strykowski for re-creating a soft-spoken story filled with lessons of life stitched into each page of Call Me Amy. The best blessing of all is that it is writ in such a voice as to fill your own mind with the reverie of your own growing years as much as a curious nod to places you’ve visited as an adult. She is the kind of gentle story-teller I would have felt wicked happy to have stumbled across as a nine year old and in full mirth of happiness to await each new release she would continue to pen!

I always liked feeling as though I was taking a journey within an adventure with a character who was sorting out who they were whilst defining how they wanted to grow into their own skin. Call Me Amy is a strong story for children who are seeking the same stories I was at the ages I did not always find I had a lot to pull off the shelf. Especially considering her attention to detailed descriptions and bolting a firm image into your mind about her quirky characters, gave me the most pleasure joy whilst reading the novel overall! I love finding writers who can etch alive their settings and characters for children with such wicked loveliness as to paint everything true blue to real life!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Stay tuned!

Next I will be sharing my thoughts on: {review}

Amy's Choice by Marcia Strykowski

Call Me Amy Book Trailer via Marcia Strykowski
Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com
This blog tour stop is courtesy of:
JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm
Virtual Road Map of “Luminis Books” Blog Tour found here:
{ click to discover all the books being featured }

Luminis Books Blog Tour with JKS Communications

 See what I will be hosting next with:

JKS Communications Literary Publicity Firm

By visiting my Bookish Events page!
I positively *love!* comments in the threads below each of my posts, and as CommentLuv only requires Email to leave a note for me I cannot wait to see what starts to populate below! Kindly know that I appreciate each thought you want to share with me and all the posts on my blog are open to new comments & commentary! Short or long, I appreciate the time you spent to leave behind a note of your visit! Return again soon!

{SOURCES: The tour badge was provided by JKS Communications and used with permission. Book Cover Art for “Call Me Amy” & “Amy’s Choice”, Author Biography & Book Synopsis provided by the author Marcia Strykowski and used with permission. The book trailer for “Call Me Amy” had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it.Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets are embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. #KidsLitBlogHop badge created by Jorie in Canva.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

The ‘live reading’ tweets I shared as I read & reviewed “Call Me Amy”:

{ favourite & Re-tweet if inspired to share }

Comments on Twitter:

KidsLitBlogHop

(on 6th February, 2015)

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Posted Tuesday, 7 October, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Trailer, Bookish Films, Bullies and the Bullied, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Geographically Specific, JKS Communications: Literary Publicity Firm, Local Libraries | Research Libraries, Maine, Middle Grade Novel, Rescue & Adoption of Animals, School Life & Situations, Siblings, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, The Seventies, Young Adult Fiction

+Blog Book Tour+ The Strength of Ballerinas by Nancy Lorenz

Posted Sunday, 21 September, 2014 by jorielov , , , 3 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

The Strength of Ballerinas by Nancy Lorenz

Published By: Sweetwater Books (@SweetwaterBooks),
an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc (@CedarFortBooks)

Official Author Websites:  Site @NancyLorenzbks | Facebook

Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook

Converse via: #TheStrengthofBallerinas OR #NancyLorenz

On the footheels of the sequel: #StrengthOfBallerinas (to imply a series)

Acquired Book By: 

I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Cedar Fort whereupon I am thankful to have such a diverse amount of novels and non-fiction titles to choose amongst to host. I received a complimentary copy of “The Strength of Ballerinas” direct from the publisher Sweetwater Books (imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

One area of motion pictures I have always been drawn into is the world of dance, as there is something quite magical about how emotion and fluidity of movement can merge into one. Creatively dance evokes such a strong passion of observation and a compelling experience for the audience who watch the dancers moving through their time on the floor. I appreciate nearly all of the different forms of dance, including urban dance crews such as the ones on ABDC (America’s Best Dance Crew) which had aired on MTV, and of which I no longer believe is hosted. The films which always spoke to me the most in different ways are the following: Dirty Dancing (with Jennifer Grey & Patrick Swayze), Save the Last Dance (with Julia Stiles), the Step Up franchise of films (each one unique in of itself), Footloose (original & remake), Flashdance, Singin’ in the Rain, every Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers film, most of the classic films of dance and/or musical variety (including works featuring: Danny Kay, Gene Kelly & others; The Ziegfeldd Follies), Chicago, Mary Poppins, Hairspray, Shall We Dance? (with Richard Gere), Greese, Burlesque (with Christina Aquilera), Honey (with Jessica Alba), Moulin Rouge, The Nanny Express (with Brennan Elliott) and of course I grew up on the tv series Fame. The films which speak directly to ballet and the world of those who dare to push the limits of their bodies are: Centerstage (my favourite favourite!), Ballet Shoes (with Emma Watson), and First Position (documentary). The ones I want to see are Billy Elliott, An American Girl: Isabelle Dances into the Spotlight, & Mao’s Last Dancer. I positively adored seeing a regional ensemble for The Nutcracker in Baltimore as well.

 First Position Official Trailer via First Position films

My own foray into the world of dance ended in my early childhood as I was very self-aware and knew which steps interested me in the room across from my own lessons. Unfortunately for me, they did not give freedom of choice to children under the age of 6. As an adult, I have wanted to re-take up the interest I have in dance and start to seek out lessons for ballroom dance as I love the agility and the grace of the sequences. I do not aim to compete, but rather to find a harmony of the steps whilst dancing against the music. I do have a sideline notion of taking up tap dancing, as I learnt for dyslexic learners tap can actually help us fuse the steps into our muscle memory. It also gives a better grounding for dance overall if you learn differently and of course, by wearing two different coloured shoes I’ll be able to ‘catch’ on a bit faster! I cannot wait to try!

I am simply drawn into stories of dance and the dancers who give us the light of their innermost joy. I was inspired to read this novel originally as it felt as though it would become a most beloved story of strength and the humbling grace of living on faith. I was only a bit worried about what the debilitating illness might be but thankfully my fears were put aside as I asked the tour director only one question: does the story involve cancer? And, the answer was no. I couldn’t wait to dive into this story as soon as I heard that and signed up for the tour! Trust me when I say that this is a story any sensitive heart can handle!

A note on the cover art design:

I was especially endeared to the choice of the cover art for this novel as it is a reflection of who Kendra is and the image of who Kendra has as a reflection of herself. There is a lot of metaphor in the novel, pointing to direct young adults and all readers who pick up the novel to reconsider how they view themselves as much as learning from Kendra’s lead. It is a clever book cover in what it is focusing on and how that focus translates into who Kendra is as a person.

+Blog Book Tour+ The Strength of Ballerinas by Nancy LorenzThe Strength of Ballerinas
by Nancy Lorenz
Source: Direct from Publisher

All Kendra has ever wanted to do is dance. But when her father's job takes their family from the city lights of Manhattan to quiet Napa Valley in California, Kendra's dreams are shattered.

Still determined to dance, she tries to adjust to her new life until a debilitating diagnosis threatens to change everything. Now Kendra must decide which dreams are really worth fighting for.

Step onto the dance floor and into Kendra's heart in this poignant and compelling story. Written by ballet lover Nancy Lorenz, this is a debut novel you won't want to put down.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Genres: Young Adult Fiction


Published by Sweetwater Books

on 9th of September, 2014

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 256

Author Biography: 

NancyLorenz

Nancy Lorenz currently teaches as an English adjunct at several colleges. She worked in publishing, public relations and in network television. She studied ballet in New York City at numerous studios, including open level classes at American Ballet Theater in the 1980’s, and continues to study ballet for the sheer love of it. She recommends that you love what you do, but also to branch out to the many subjects out there yet to discover. The more you learn, the more you can bring back into your art.

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A story about family & our desire to find our niche in the world:

I always appreciate fiction that drives into the heart of who we are as individuals and the discover of our own personal niche inside the world itself. The Strength of Ballerinas at it’s core is about a teenage ballerina in tutelage at the Manhattan Dance Company who unexpectedly is pulled from her rigorous training and transplanted into the vineyards of Napa Valley due to a job transfer of her father’s. All the whilst attempting to sort through regular teenage angst and anguish of understanding your person, your internal world of thought, body image & self worth issues, and the navigation of the world within the structure of school. School is always a rapid-fire crazy chaos of sorting out how to fit in or rather blend in without drawing attention to yourself if your own self-confidence is faltering due to an internal battle of frustration with your circumstances. In this light, Lorenz paints Kendra’s world brilliantly, as she shows how difficult the relocation was from the point-of-view of a ballerina in training and how life can throw a curve ball you’d rather have dodged completely!

I like the empathsis on Kendra’s family life, on how she lost her Mum at a young age, how her brother has autism, and how her father feels a bit lost in the shuffle of everything that keeps happening to his family. He’s written well on his own behalf, as parents are not always fleshed out in Children’s Literature (across the board from Juvenile, Middle Grade, or Young Adult fiction) nor do they come across as regular parents, but rather caricatures of who they should be. Lorenz takes the parents of the novel and gives them an honest portrayal of caring & nurturing presences inside the lives of the teens. I appreciated seeing Mr. Sutton (Kendra’s Dad) as much as I did Mrs. Cassidy (the widow mother of Becca & Troy), as it sparks a new vein of realism inside this genre of Young Adult.

My Review of The Strength of Ballerinas:

Kendra’s world crashes in the blink of an eye when on the larkspur joy of completing a milestone in her quest to become an apprentice ballerina (she achieved twenty fouettés), her father informs her they are going to embark on a cross-country job transfer. Her young life and world is surrounded by dance – to perfect the grace and the maturity needed to handle the arduous competitive state of ballet. She lives and breathes her art, denying herself any other joy outside of the practice and has no interest in food except enough to satisfy her father’s concern on behalf of her health. What compelled me about the start of The Strength of Ballerinas is how within the opening sequences of the story, Lorenz gives you a breath of a whisper to what is going to be alighting next in successive chapters. A mere hinting of a foreshadow, but enough to compel me forward into the heart of the novel.

Lorenz writes with a passion for the ballet and for an understanding of the internal world of a ballerina. She pulls you into that mindset and allows for the characters to be honest about their feelings and their thoughts as they arise naturally through dialogue. I always find this is especially important when writing stories for YA audiences, as it gives a firm and compelling addition to literature for younger audiences who are thirsty for realism and heart.

As Kendra progresses through the early stages of being the new student at the Napa Valley high school, we start to see her undergo a bit of a metamorphosis in how she views her position in her life. Prior to the relocation from New York City to California, she centered her life around ballet. She never even considered the role she had as a big sister to Petey her younger brother afflicted with autism, nor did she count the difficulties her widowed father might have as well. She was focused intently on her dream to be a prima ballerina but what she was missing was the grounding roots of a well-balanced and well-lived life. By exchanging one Coast for the other, we start to see her emerge out of her shell a bit, reconsidering a few things she had always ignored (especially the warning signs of her muscles), and even ventured to appreciate food for something more than sustenance. I appreciated this character growth occurring in the novel, as if there is a teen who is career driven themselves, they might start to see that you can have a rounded world full of experiences without limiting your scope to what you want to do professionally.

Seeing Kendra’s happiness at the pumpkin patch of the Cassidy’s was one of my favourite scenes, as she had pure joy inside her heart and she carried this into being a big sister to Petey of whom she tried to share the happiness with as well. I felt it was a turning point in her outlook and of her growth towards being a bit more than she was when she was in New York.

The interesting part of the novel is how Kendra believed as strongly in her brother’s abilities as their mother yet she would find that her father could only believe what he sees. Coincidently, he is also the father who disbelieves what he sees when his son starts to show signs he’s participating rather than not understanding anything at all. I think this was a good show of how hard it is for parents to trust in something that they do not fully understand but hope will have a positive outcome. I can imagine how frustrating it is for the parents of autistic children to find joy inside everyday hours, when attempting to simply make a small connection to a child who does not know how to communicate. I have often run across autistic children whilst I am out at malls or stores, and I always remember to have a bit more patience, as I never know if something I say or if I move too quickly will affect their child. This was especially the case when I was riding in an elevator with an autistic child at a department store. I thought closer about my words and my tone, and I didn’t make any sudden movements – not that I do normally, but I was mindful the child might misread anything outside their own family and environment. The mother thanked me and we talked a bit before she had to go on with her day. I smiled and said a prayer of gratitude for remembering what I had read and heard in documentaries. The memory triggered to mind as I read this story, however, as how one parent differs from another; and how all parents have their breaking moments of feeling exasperated. I can only hope if others were to come across a child whose responses clued them into the fact they had special needs, they’d take a few extra steps to make them feel comfortable as I had and give their Mum or Dad a breathing space. As I think that is what Kendra’s Dad needed — he needed breathing space.

I simply soaked straight into this novel and was absent from noticing the erasure of the hours off the clock! I simply found myself unable to put the book down, much less draw a pause to blog my thoughts about it! What was so very compelling about The Strength of Ballerinas is how universal the message is of the story: to not only believe in your own unique talent but to treasure the experiences and choices you have to create a future you were always meant to walk. It is powerful and empowering at the very same time – to live for a short spell inside Kendra’s shoes and watch as she grows inside this beautiful coming-of age story of strength, spiritual fortitude, and a conviction of personal will to overcome what comes along in our lives that scare us as much as they define our character.

Nancy Lorenz is a writer in YA I want to keep my eye on:

Lorenz has such a beautiful gift for writing compelling teenage drama and realistic life circumstances, that I know she is most definitely a writer in YA I want to keep my eye on! I cannot wait to see where she takes us next, and the fact she was so convicting in a novel of dance, I’d be keen to see more exploits of the creative arts; if not dance! She truly knows how to get into the heart of her characters and I appreciate this the most, as they are uniquely different and approachable. She keeps a clear eye on the economic front of America as well, and she ties-in realistic examples of modern American life as well. She’s not cliche and she honours the characters by giving them full flexibility and a rite of passage that befits who they are as well. I am most definitely going to be keeping my eyes on the look-out for her next releases through Sweetwater Books!

One of the most beautiful things is how she found a way to transition the terminology of the dance into a tangible visual representation of the ballet without having hiccups in the translation. I felt caught up in the delight of reading this novel, because the author’s vision for the storm guided my heart and my imagination towards her impression of where she wanted us to go as reader’s. It is a special gift to translate visually what you write through words, and her expressions and palette of choice in descriptions matched how I felt this story would be represented in life.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

The Strength of Ballerinas Book Trailer via The Strength of Ballerinas

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

This Blog Tour Stop is courtesy of Cedar Fort, Inc:

Cedar Fort Publishing & Media

Virtual Road Map of “The Strength of Ballerinas” Blog Tour can be found here:

This is my second Young Adult book review outside of Speculative Fiction and the second for Equality in Literature. Wonder was the first one I blogged about where a brother is different from his sister and the story is rooted in family & coming-of age.

The Strength of Ballerinas Blog Tour via Cedar Fort Publishing & Media

Click-through to mark your calendars for:

Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in CanvaFun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

I positively *love!* comments in the threads below each of my posts, and I have happily made sure that I could reacquire the WP Comments where you can leave me a comment by using: WP (WordPress), Twitter, Facebook, Google+, & Email! Kindly know that I appreciate each thought you want to share with me and all the posts on my blog are open to new comments & commentary! Short or long, I appreciate the time you spent to leave behind a note of your visit! Return again soon! 

{SOURCES: Author photograph and the Book Cover of “The Strength of Ballerinas” were provided by the author Nancy Lorenz and used with permission. The Cedar Fort badge, the Book Synopsis, and the Author Biography were provided by Cedar Fort, Inc. and used by permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Book Trailer for The Strength of Ballerinas via the novel’s YouTube Channel & the trailer for First Position by First Position Films had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed these media portals to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

The ‘live reading’ tweets I shared as I read & reviewed “The Strength of Ballerinas”:

{ favourite & Re-tweet if inspired to share }

Updates about this becoming a series:

*This last tweet was RT at least 5x!

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Posted Sunday, 21 September, 2014 by jorielov in 21st Century, A Father's Heart, Autism, Ballet, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Book Trailer, Bookish Films, Brothers and Sisters, California, Cedar Fort Publishing & Media, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debilitating Diagnosis & Illness, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Diet Weight & Body Image, Disabilities & Medical Afflictions, Documentary on Topic or Subject, Equality In Literature, Father-Daughter Relationships, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, Geographically Specific, Indie Author, Life Shift, Modern Day, Musical Fiction | Non-Fiction, Napa Valley, New York City, Prejudicial Bullying & Non-Tolerance, Questioning Faith as a Teen, Realistic Fiction, School Life & Situations, Siblings, Small Towne Fiction, Special Needs Children, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, Transfer Student at School, Urban Life, Vintages and Vineyards, Women's Health, Young Adult Fiction

+Book Review+ The Dragon’s Pawn (sequel to “The Pact”) by Mitchell S. Karnes

Posted Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 by jorielov , , , 9 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

The Dragon’s Pawn by Mitchell S. Karnes

The Dragon's Pawn by Mitchell S. Karnes

Published By:  Black Rose Writing, 3 April 2014

Official Author Website: Site

Converse on Twitter: #CanaanshadeJourneys & #MitchellSKarnes

Available Formats: Softcover Page Count: 254

Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, YA Fantasy

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Acquired Book By:

I was originally selected to be a tour stop on the “The Dragon’s Pawn” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. However, when the tour was cancelled, I personally contacted the author through his website to let him know I would still be interested in reading his book if it were available off-tour. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author, Mitchell S. Karnes, without obligation to post a review. I opted to review this book on my own accord as a way to tie together my observations between the two novels in the series. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

On my connection to the author, Mitchell S. Karnes:

I felt a bit let down when I learnt the blog tour for “The Dragon’s Pawn” was cancelled through TLC Book Tours. I decided to take it upon myself to contact the author Michell S. Karnes to request the book for review off-tour. I was not sure if it would be available for review as when a tour is cancelled odds are in favour of the book not being available at that time. I was thankful to receive a response from the author, in which I had disclosed the following in my note:

I had signed up for this tour specifically due to our exchange of conversation after my review of “The Pact” posted. I never knew if you had seen my reply, but I had included mentioning that perhaps after I had read the sequel I would understand the first book a bit better. Thus, when the tour was offered I opted to participate and give the series a second chance based on your reply.

I wanted to honour the request he had given me after I posted my review of “The Pact” as much as I will admit, I was curious where the sequel would lead the reader as the story evolved forward. We exchanged a conversation through email, to where I learnt a bit more about the back-story of how the Canaashade Journey series was originally conceived and written. When he agreed to send me the novel, “The Dragon’s Pawn” it was sent without obligation to post a review as he was simply thankful I wanted to read his story. He included an extra surprise for me, giving me the official bookmark for the book of which I used as I read the story itself!

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Karnes via our conversations ahead of my review. 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.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comBook Synopsis:

Back in high school Scott, Paul, Chris, and Luke made two pacts: to stay friends forever and to play Warriors and Thieves as often as possible. Twenty-four years later neither pact remains. Each man has gone his own way. Only Chris still plays the game, and he is dying of cancer. Will his friends reunite for one last game? The way they always dreamed of playing?

As they come together they realise Chris stumbled upon a way for them to enter their fantasy world of Canaanshade and play the game for real… as their characters of old. There’s a catch: they must return to 1989 and the bodies of their middle and high school selves first. Otherwise, any damage they receive in the the game will be upon them as well. What could it hurt? Little do they know, a dark secret from their past is haunting them, threatening not only their game but their very lives.

As the four boys enter Canaanshade and the bodies of their favourite role-playing characters, a strange thing happens. Each begins to slowly slip into oblivion and fade into his player’s consciousness. Will they realise in time? Mitchell S. KarnesAnd if so, can they do anything to stop the process?

One of them has sold his friends out to the red and black dragon. Will the others discover the identity of the dragon’s pawn before it is too late? Getting into the game was the dream of a lifetime; getting out was the nightmare no one expected.

Author Biography:

Mitchell S. Karnes was born in Kansas and spent his childhood in Illinois. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife, Natalie, and five of their seven children, where he serves as the Pastor of Walker Baptist Church. He holds a Bachelor’s degree and three Master’s degrees. Mitchell’s first novel, Crossing the Line, made the Southern Writer’s Guild’s “Must Read” list. His short stories include: “When Nothing Else Matters,” “A Family Portrait,” and “Grampa Charlie’s Ring.” He hopes to entertain, challenge, move and teach through each and every story. The Pact is just the beginning…the first book in a four-part series.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comSequel gives adequate precursor:

Prior to getting into the heart of the story, of where this installment lies inside the series of Canaanshade, we were graced with a review of the epic climax of events which had put me a bit past my edge of acceptance on behalf of the first novel, “The Pact”. I had a hard time struggling to come to terms with the inclusions of the heightened violence and the intense display of domestic disturbances within the adolescent years of the main characters. However, encouraged by the author himself to read the sequel in order to understand the series as a whole, I entered this story with a renewed optimism of spirit.

Although I knew the intensity of the subject at hand, the sequent deaths in the story came at quite a shock as did the level of rage. This is a cautionary tale of how sometimes the lines between fiction and reality can become blurred and the true lesson is knowing the signs of when someone can no longer separate the difference of the two. – quoted from my review of “The Pact”

The Prologue is a re-telling of the fated events where two teens lost their lives on the railroad tracks, as one boy survived being tossed into a river in the middle of a carpet roll. The boy who was paralyzed and unable to run down the tracks to help until he was needed to swim to save his drowning friend is the lead protagonist again in this installment: Scott Addison. The story originally was a tale of caution and of utmost urgency to realise how devastingly real role-playing games can become when those who are playing the games in earnest are not always aware of how serious the other players can take their roles. For me, the original beginning was both heart-wretching and difficult to read due to the depth of where the story led.

Luke might be a war-monger in Warriors & Thieves, but I was curious to seek out what was motivating him to push Chris and Paul out of their comfort zones of reality into the common bloodshed of warfare. There are many ways to accomplish self-confidence and self-advocacy without pushing the envelopes of violence, especially unrelented violence in a game which is usually grounded in skill, maneuvers, and obstacles. Chris on the other hand has a brilliant way of keeping the rules of the game intact by pushing the action of the game forward within the confines of the realm, but lacks the clarity of knowing how to enliven the story of which the world-building is meant to carve out of its niche. Paul is the innocent of the group, learning as he builds confidence through his friendships. Scott comes from playing the game through his father’s advice. Endeavouring to give a bit more of a back-story to each of the characters which gives you a lifeblood to the game eliminating the one dimensional interface. One of my favourite revelations is when Scott shows Paul his hand-drawn map of Canaanshade which he created with his father. The intricacy of the world arc is exactly what all of us hope for in our fantasy realms of reading adventures! Lit alive with creatures and characters you want to know more about. – quoted from my review of “The Pact”

The sequel on the other hand, gives a great precursor to where we find Addison now, as an established teacher and coach at a school. It allows us to re-enter his life at a point in time where he is struggling to resolve not only his past (where the “The Pact” is set) but to see if he can knit the pieces together from the present where he struggles to find logic, sense, and strength of faith where only fate felt guiding his path previously.

My Review of The Dragon’s Pawn:

Karnes begins the second book in the Canaashade Journeys series with the ability of taking a reader directly into the mindset of Scott Addison as though the person did not previously read “The Pact”. In doing so, he allows the series to stand not only on its own merits of validity, but he allows the reader to skip the first book altogether in order to read the sequel which in my opinion might be a better place to begin the saga. I appreciated the juxtaposition of Addison as a child verse Addison as an adult longing for semblance of normalcy and buoyancy in his life. I appreciated that nothing from the prior book was glossed over and righted by the time you enter the sequel, as there was such a heavy hearted ending to the original story, I was hoping for this to be found in its sequel. To find the characters are still on a journey towards finding themselves as much as they are shifting towards reconciliation of the past.

In this sequence, Addison is dealing with the devastating loss of his wife and childhood sweetheart Susan, compounded by the fact that although he has four beautiful children, his heart is shattered to accept the reality of what he is facing alone. His trial now is to find an anchor in the present to help guide him forward and continue towards the light he always had known with his wife. Meanwhile, Chris has grown up with an affinity of love for Warriors and Thieves, their childhood role-playing game where they all lived unique lives outside of the realm of reality. Chris is facing his most difficult obstacle yet, as he has terminal cancer. Luke on the other hand grew up to be a psychologist who has his own battle of will and mind to sort out before he can hope to help another in his practice. The three are uniquely tethered to their current paths to where they are living separate lives outside of the comfort of friendship.

The more interesting bit to The Dragon’s Pawn, is how reality is folding in on fantasy, and how the characters who live in the fantasy realm are breaching into the daylight of reality. Characters from the Canaanshade game are becoming flesh and bone realistic to their counterparts and there are aspects of illusion and delusion that are affecting the minds of Addison and Richards. Rooted in the prequel’s belief that there are times where the gameplay can supersede the realm in which one lives as much as the game itself can become dangerous to the mind of those who play it; if they are not able to separate the game from the life they are living.

Luke, Chris, Scott, and Paul are transformed into their younger halves whilst entering the game from a place they have never started before; a transparency of reality shared amongst their subconscious minds, where what they feel, taste, and experience on a sensory level affects them on an intellectual and emotional one. Canaanshade is vibrantly alive and real, a fully tangible experience for all to see and notice, because the world in which was once imagined now has its own unique lifeblood which allows it to evolve into an existence between the worlds. Karnes painted the realities inside Canaanshade with a deft hand for detail any fantasy reader would absorb into on sight.

In the middle of the action, I found myself wondering when the intensity was going to ease and the realm would be restored to peace. The level of intensity never let up, and each step and turn the characters took inside Canaanshade led to a greater challenge than the previous one they had fought. I think for me, the story is simply a bit too intense, but the continuity aspect of the series remains intact for a reader who likes well conceived worlds stitched together and held firm from one book to another. I would recommend this series to anyone who can handle the harder hitting passages, the visual nature of the action sequences, and the level of depth that the author has written into the chapters. The message from The Pact carries straight through The Dragon’s Pawn, and for that Karnes should be commended.

My favourite part of the The Dragon’s Pawn was the hyposensory experience of the conjoined dreamstate awareness of when the men returned as boys back to their childhood game. For me, the most creative aspect of the novel was how they physically did not leave their ordinary lives but they took a spiritual plane of existence and acted out the game on a new plane of perception completely. It was quite clever and awe inspiring to walk through the chapters where Karnes explored how they were able to transform their reality to one they could only previously imagine and hope to see.

Inspirational Messages underneath the drama:

One of the things that I find such a blessing to the way in which Karnes writes his novels, is that he always includes a measure of inspiration for his readers to find inside the books. His inspirational guidance is not strong or overhanded but rather graceful and practical to shine a light on what is right, wrong, and perhaps the middle of the two. He allows his readers to fully accept the situations he is presenting in the stories, and then, allowing them the freedom of choice to make up their own minds about the paths each character took and how their lives reflect on the choices that can be determined in real life.

I even found it inspiring that he showed an honest reaction to an incident at school, where Addison over reacted to save a teacher’s life by having his mind break from that chosen reality to the reality of how his wife died. Karnes brought the full horror of that incident out of Addison’s life to the forefront, where he transposed it against the intensity of the moment where a student was attacking a fellow teacher. In that slight moment of illogical reaction, we saw the full depth of Addison’s grief and the tipping stone of how far he needs to come back to the life he is nearly about to lose. The realism in that choice to bring one circumstance to a new height out of the depths of one man’s sorrow shows the level of strength Karnes has for his writing and for taking his characters to further depths than perhaps they were even willing to share themselves.

Fly in the Ointment:

There were piercing instances of fight sequences and scenes whilst they were inside the realm and world of Canaanshade, and I must confess, that I am a reader who prefers less excessive violence moreso than any other kind. Chilling scenes of intense drama or even moderate violent instances which are warranted for the sequence or scene in which they arise, as sometimes certain stories have a measure of intensity more than the others I typically read, but in this story, I must be honest as I was pushed a bit past my envelopes of tolerance. I am just not a reader who needs to read about what happens when you take a sword and for better or worse due extreme harm to your opponent without having anything left to the imagination. I believe the visuals on page 126 would have fared better for me if it had merely said Garrett mortally wounded the hill giant! For me, the scene was heightened to a level of ick because honestly, do I need to read in graphic detail what happens after the sword goes through a giant?! No!

My one consolation is the fact that the character inside of Garrett is Addison, and he like me, decided that bloodshed and violence was not the way in which he wanted to travel either. Although, like I said, the reader in me could do with less visuals and still have the effect of the moment which arrived in his section of Canaanshade experience.

Likewise, the blood bath in chapter twenty-four was skipped over, as I already knew what to expect when Bentheos would grow in power and master the sword of which he always sought to wield power over. I honestly had a feeling this might have been included because his master was Luke, the boy with the heart of war in his chest and the sight of bloodshed in his eyes. The boy never knew limits, and likewise, that rubbed off in effect on his character inside the game, except for one slight difference, the boy had remorse, his character was without the feeling for it.

On the writings of Mitchell S. Karnes:

Karnes fuses memory with fiction, as he takes elements of his own life’s experiences and places them into the context of a story which can serve to help teens and children who may not be as aware of the dangers that can lurk within the shadows of a game. He provides a blueprint of a reality in which the root cause of bullying is examined and the after effects of how that bullying can take a toll on those who have to deal with the onslaught of attack from their peers. The blessing is how he chooses to teach the lesson by giving his characters near complete freedom to tell the story in the manner in which applies to each of their personalities. For me, the prequel I felt was a bit too strong in how it was delving into the darker sides of the story’s heart, but perhaps, for this particular story it had to be painted dark because of how dark the mind was of the bully who was responsible for everything that occurred in the climax.

Having read The Dragon’s Pawn, I can now say that the scope of the series is far more apparent and the heart of what the story is attempting to share with its readership is simply one of warning. To be mindful of your actions and to be cautious of the friends you keep as much as the games you play in the realm of fantasy and fun. There are plenty of games that can turn deadly or harmful if they are played the wrong way or for the wrong reasons, but all games at their center can be celebrated for their common goal of companionship, friendship, and the joy of playing the game for what it is rather than turning it into something that it is not.

Previously I had the honour of hosting Mr. Karnes:

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

This book review is courtesy:

The Dragon's Pawn
by Mitchell S. Karnes
Source: Direct from Author

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

Also by this author: The Pact

Genres: Young Adult Fiction, YA Fantasy, YA Urban Fantasy


Published by Black Rose Writing

Format: Paperback Edition

Of the author Mitchell S. Karnes, who gave me the opportunity to read “The Dragon’s Pawn” even after the blog tour was cancelled. I cannot thank him enough for allowing me to see the fuller scope of the story in which he has conceived through the Canaanshade Journeys series. I appreciated the chance to continue the story as much as for giving me a new sense of the reality the characters faced not only in the prequel but the larger scope of depth through this second installment of a quartet series. The two work well together and are bookends of each other.

NOTE: Mr. Karnes is hosting a giveaway on his blog for both “The Pact” and “The Dragon’s Pawn” independent of my review of “The Dragon’s Pawn”. Please direct your attention to his website for the details. This giveaway is not connected to Jorie Loves A Story.

Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Reader Interactive Question:

After reading this review and clicking over to read my review of “The Pact”, what is your takeaway of the benefit of having young adults and middle school children read the series? What do you think their reaction would be realising how far bullying can lead you down the wrong path and how dangerous lives can hang in the balance when you choose to do harm?

{SOURCES:  Mitchell S. Karnes photograph and biography, The Dragon’s Pawn book cover and book synopsis were provided by Mitchell S. Karnes and used with permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 by jorielov in Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Bookish Discussions, Bullies and the Bullied, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Excessive Violence in Literature, Gaming, Good vs. Evil, Heroic Bloodshed, Heroic Fantasy, Indie Author, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Light vs Dark, Literature for Boys, Middle Grade Novel, Questioning Faith as a Teen, Realistic Fiction, Role Playing Games, Sports and Jocks, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, Wrestling, YA Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

+Book Review+ A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk by Scott E. Tarbet (a Shakespearean re-telling)

Posted Saturday, 12 April, 2014 by jorielov , , 4 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

A MidSummer Night's Steampunk by Scott E. Tarbet
Artwork Credit: Dale Pease (of Walking Stick Books) http://walkingstickbooks.com

Published By: Xchyler Publishing () 18 November, 2013
Official Editor WebsitesSite  | Twitter
Converse via: #AMidSummerNightsSteampunk
Genres: After the Canon | Classic Re-Telling | Shakespearean | Steampunk | Fantasy
Available Formats: Trade Paperback and E-Book
Page Count: 324


Acquired Book By: I contacted Xchyler Publishing about receiving books in exchange for honest reviews and was asked to pick the two books I’d like to request. Moments in Millennia was my second choice, as my first choice was A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk. My interest in this novel is based on a life-long love of William Shakespeare’s writings! I received a complimentary copy of “A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk” in exchange for an honest review direct from the publisher Xchyler Publishing. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

On Appreciation of William Shakespeare:

As a participant of the A to Z Challenge this April, whereupon each blogger is undertaking 26 Essays | 26 Days, I elected to focus on my love and appreciation of Classical Literature on Day 3: Letter C. Therein, I discuss my fascination and affinity for William Shakespeare from the very first moment I first read his plays and Sonnets. I knew I had found a writer I would be reading for the rest of my life. He had this classic way of ebbing out the human sphere of emotion, psyche, and our living observations. He was the best at conveying each dynamical evocation of human emotions as well. A champion of wordsmiths, it was through his bar of sophisticated eloquence I tend to seek out in other writers. He always felt to me to give great pause before enduing his characters with action or dialogue. He wanted us to have a legacy of thought left behind and for this I am in his debt.

Imagine my happiness in finding there was an author out there who would not only take his own passion for Shakespeare to a new height of re-telling the magically laced “A MidSummer Night’s Dream” and retrofit it into a Steampunkified re-telling of the classic tale with the bentings of a scientific quality of theory!


Author Biography:

Scott E. TarbetScott Tarbet writes enthusiastically in several genres, sings opera, was married in full Elizabethan regalia, loves Steampunk waltzes, and slow-smokes thousands of pounds of Texas-style barbeque. An avid skier, hiker, golfer, and tandem kayaker, he makes his home in the mountains of Utah.

You can learn more about Mr. Tarbet through the Interview I conducted ahead of this book review! He shares his thoughts on Steampunk as a genre, his appreciation of Shakespeare, and a lot of keen bits for writers & readers alike!

Book Synopsis:

Immerse yourself in this Steampunk retelling of Shakespeare’s classic, replete with the newfound wizardry of alternative Victorian technology, mistaken identities, love triangles, and deadly peril, set against the backdrop of a world bracing itself for war, and Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Pauline Spiegel, a master artificer like her mother before her, wants just one thing: to wed the love of her life, Alexander MacIntyre, a lowly undersecretary of the Royal Household. However, a long-term pact between her parents, and a noble House, stands between her and her happily ever after. When a priceless mechanoid of unfathomable power is stolen, Pauline finds herself entangled in skullduggery and international intrigue, upon which the fate of nations rest. Only with the help of her friends, and a brilliant scientist with a swarm of micromechanical insects, can Pauline survive the dark forces determined to destroy her. But will her betrothed and his rag-tag band of semi-mechanical soldiers reveal Alexander’s secrets as well?

 


To begin with a parting of prose:

A lover of quotations and bits of poetry, I am one reader who appreciated the warming of my reading palette with bobblements of poems greeting me at each interface! A lovely poem reminiscent of the innocence of fairies greets you before you reach the Prologue. And, yet another poem graces the upper corner of Chapter 1. A little nibbling of foreshadow in which I took the most delight! And off from here comes the divergence into a world of mechanisms and the air in which humanity’s door is slightly skewed towards automation. Rehabilitating veterans of war has been turnt on its heels to retrofit survivors into the most efficient entity of their trades. A fantastical yet questioningly haunting insight into how production and quantity can supersede plausibility and ethics.

Each chapter is lit with a piercing thought writ out through the hand of poets to help give heed to the next foray of intrigue!

My Review of A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk:

As I nestled into the story of A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk, I attempt to recollect if I had read the original play or if perchance, I had seen an adaptation of it instead? The corridors of my memory are a bit foggy at best, which is why I had to shift a bit of my fragmented memories and emerge into the sadistic fever of mechs who were created not necessarily for the well-being of their inhabitors but for the progression of automated industrialism as I aforesaid. The shockingly brutal rebuilding of a sentient being is off-set by the fact that the mechs do not seem to realise their individualistic freedoms have become abandoned on the whim of their creator.

The words in which Tarbet uses to create his universal pace is a pure delight to this wordsmith’s heart! He gives you a felicity of choice as you ease your way forward into the chapters which yield the most foreshadowing to satisfy your appetite for the action yet to transpire. Picking up where Shakespeare had left off is not an easy task, but to knit together a story which honours the canon and gives such a creative spark to Steampunk at the same time is a celebration of his writing style.

The forbearing inertia of caution is under-stitched into the story of the classic tale, giving a new appreciation for the choices humans have made since the Victorian age as each path chosen has turnt out a different avenue of progress. If we had opted instead to keep the heart of what Steampunk gives the reader, the age of steampower and gaslight we might have made deviations in other areas where the Industrial Revolution had yet to enlighten. By keeping Victorian technology in place, we see how devious the experiments can take inventors when their minds are wired for clockwork and automation. A little too much good for their own souls if you ask me!

At first I found it a bit tricky to ascertain how to proportionate the mech characters in my mind’s eye, as I’m quite new to Steampunk & Clockpunk alike. Then, all of a sudden whilst the mech men made their way through to central London, it dawned on me how to visualise them! From that moment forward, I had this envisioning shadow of how they were created and how they would stand out in ordinary streets of London! I think if there were illustrative plates for this particular piece it might have helped me out a bit. Character sketches to off-set the lack of baseline recognition! Except to say, Tarbet expertly gives such a vivid viewing of each of the mech’s mannerisms to purport an honest impression of how they can be perceived! I am such a visual learner that at times, when I step outside a world I’ve previously visited, I must adjust my eyes to a new one! In this, I celebrated my ability to see visually in my mind’s eye what Tarbet was attempting all of us to embrace!

A clever re-telling by far, as he has etched in such a reformed rite of passage for women in the story, where there is an alliance between Lakshmi, Jennie, and Vicky – all women of equal power and without the ambiguity of being able to blend in from behind prying eyes. For them to launch a series of events to forestall a dictator’s diabolical plans to overtake surrounding nations is one of the best moments I was celebrating! It gave way to the expression that ‘behind all good men, is a great woman’; and in this particular story it could not be more true! A separate alliance was forged out of necessity from the mech men, a wickedly fascinating engineer Pauline, her two suitors Alexander & Winston, along with a besotted in love girl named Clementine who only has eyes for Winston!

At the very heart of the story is the searing warmonger Wilhelm who is blinded by carnal rage and a robust ill-fated sense of power. His intentions for his home country is strengthened by his assertion that power and proclivity towards violent rule are his inherit gifts. A madman on the collision course towards altering history whilst utilising another madman’s offering of technology. There are moments of intense fighting and heated battle between human and mechs, and mechs vs mechs with an equaling sense of unease. Each is caught in the cross-hairs of an emerging war neither fully understands. It is only when logic is cast aside and reason is indued by a spark of enlightenment which dances straight into the vortex of human understanding can true change be cast. Free will of man and mech is the turning point towards diplomacy and democracy.

As I was reading the story, I thought this particular book would be a great lesson in ethics for a University class to undertake. There is enough within the chapters to take both sides of the argument and dissect the worth of its message. What foolish folly and provocation can be found in the nettling and maddening proclamations of one man’s dream for supreme rule.

Equality & Diversity : Undertone Components

An undertone component of A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk is the inequality of the mechs inside the story. They have become their own race of men as their lives were irrefutably altered when they came home from the battlefield and/or the hospital in which their very life hung in the balance between being medically altered through technology and death. Due to their new status of half man | half machine, they are no longer viewed as individuals outside the scope of what trade they perform based on their ‘upgrades’ towards industry efficiency.  And, therein lies the problem. Rather than being viewed as the people they were prior to the surgeries that were performed without their consent, they are no longer given the compassion of humanity by any person who crosses their path. Rather instead they are refuted from view, a mere glimpse of a hint of the ravages of war and a different age of invention.

Tarbet presents both sides of the argument giving a positive light on how restoration of a person’s self-worth, self-identity, and the living freedoms of liberty each of us is innately inherit to have is plausible if there are still those who agree all sentient life has rights to keep in tact.

Fly in the Ointment:

Although I enjoyed reading this re-telling of William Shakespeare’s “A MidSummer Night’s Dream”, there is a curious attachment in the second half of the story to bring out the full measure of Jack the Ripper’s presence. At first, the subtle nodding towards Hitler’s reign over Germany; the conquest of Napoleon through France; and the merciless tactile militant force of the mechs carved out of the unwilling criminally insane patients was taken for what each representation was given to highlight. However, for me, this stretched a bit too far into the darker shadows of the theories behind why Jack the Ripper killed and what his motivations were to hunt innocents in the streets of London. I was a bit surprised that the wielding of the alternative history components were writ as strong as they were, as the backdrop of the story which illuminated the most joy for me were the clockpunk and automation engineering technologic advances on the side of the good.

There is always a battleground arc for good vs. evil, but there are times where I feel the vile bits to highlighting said evil can inadvertently overtake the good bits. I was pleased to see Tarbet use the eloquence of Shakespeare to empathise the vocalisations of human emotion without falling into the quandary I normally express in Fly in the Ointment. No, it’s not an issue of language but rather of how far pushed the envelope felt to me for the level of violence against the backdrop of where the story was leading. Of course, all stories are open to interpretation of the reader, and I for one, felt the story was guiding me towards one passageway of an ending rather than diverting down another.

A decidedly splendid extra:

Behind the conclusion of A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk, the author’s biography & acknowledgements and a bit of a mini catalogue of titles via Xchyler Publishing itself, is a decidedly splendid extra: a preview of On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer! A book which is not yet released and an author of whom Mr. Tarbet spoke about in his Author’s Interview!


A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk Book Trailer by Xchyler Publishing

There is something magical afoot at Xchyler Publishing as their music accompaniments inside their book trailers draw your imagination into the narratives of their stories long before you pick up their books!


This book review is courtesy of:

Xchyler Publishing

check out my upcoming bookish events and mark your calendars!

I have been blessed with four spotlights on behalf of Xchyler Publishing:

An Editor Interview with Penny Freeman,

a book review of Moments in Millennia: a Fantasy Anthology,

and my Interview with author Scott E. Tarbet ahead of this book review!

I’d be keen to hear reader responses to my review of A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk, as I was happily settled into the alternative history backing of story against the clockpunk elements of automation before plunging head-first into the Jack the Ripper thread. Have you ever felt ensconced into a story-line which at a certain point in time arched into a different thread of discovery than you forethought? What do you look for within the realm of Steampunk, Clockpunk, and automation stories? What draws you in and what if anything disappoints you?

{SOURCES:  A MidSummer Night’s Steampunk Book Cover, and synopsis were provided by Xchyler Publishing and were used by permission. Author photograph & biography were provided by the author Scott E. Tarbet and used with permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs.  The book trailer by Xchyler Publishing had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Saturday, 12 April, 2014 by jorielov in 19th Century, Action & Adventure Fiction, After the Canon, Airship, Alternative History, Automation, Book for University Study, Book Review (non-blog tour), Book Trailer, Bookish Discussions, Bullies and the Bullied, Classical Literature, Clever Turns of Phrase, Clockmakers & Watchmakers, Clockpunk, Clockwork & Mechanisations, Clogs & Gears, Debut Novel, Dirigible, England, Excessive Violence in Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Fly in the Ointment, Genre-bender, Good vs. Evil, Indie Author, Inspired By Author OR Book, MidSummer's Night Dream, Re-Told Tales, Steampunk, the Victorian era, Warfare & Power Realignment, William Shakespeare, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage, Xchyler Publishing