Genre: Science Fiction

*SFN* | Book Review: The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead

Posted Tuesday, 5 November, 2013 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead
[Book One of The Bright Empire series]

[Book Two: The Bone House]
[Book Three: The Spirit Well]
[Book Four: The Shadow Lamp]

Published By: Thomas Nelson, 2010
Page Count: 416

Borrowed Book By: My local library’s ILL (inter-library loan) service as they did not carry it in their catalogue. What is interesting though is that they have book three “The Spirit Well” instead!  Therefore, if I find that I enjoy reading this I will ILL books two and four! I was thankful that the request went through in time for me to read this book in conjunction with SFN!

What drew me to read this story:  Is the fact that the very premise of the book acknowledges the existence of fissures in time, which I found to be a riveting opening to a book, much less a full series! And, the fact that people could ‘walk through’ these individual time fissures and experience something unlike what we generally experience was a story I wanted to read! Made possible by a discovery of a sequence of straight lines known as ‘ley lines’, which in of themselves omit an electromagnetic current! If you have been following me along with my SFN posts, you will already know that this would be of key interest, as I happen to fancy stories that involve ‘time travel’ and have recently begun to become acquainted with “The Doctor” of “Doctor Who”! Its evoking the same sense I received from watching “The Adjustment Bureau” where reality is perceptional and can be altered with the opening of a single door OR at the flick of a switch you do not see by sight. The prospect of an ordinary person ‘stumbling across’ this altered state of time, who is summoned by a person of their past is an adventure I thought was well worth taking!

Inspired to Share: When I originally settled on reading this particular story, I couldn’t help but hit the ‘play button’ on the book trailer, which was listed in the upper right corner of the author’s website! I am ever so curious about book trailers, as I have been finding this year that instead of the regular fare of trailers, we are being happily delighted by seeing more ‘mini-film’ versions!! These sort of trailers not only have bang-on accuracy as far as giving the heart and context of the story to a potential reader, but if that reader (such as I) has a fancy for motion pictures, they become an engaging platform in which one’s mind can jump-dive into the story as though they were living through the character as they would in the seat of a darkened theater watching a first-run film! This next genesis of book trailers has captured me as being the ones that endear you long-term towards the book your about to pick up, as it gives you such a riveting visual aide to help you sink easier into the setting of the world just within reach of your fingertips! The wicked part is that they took the information on the inside cover flap and turnt it into the book trailer!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

“The Skin Map” by Stephen Lawhead, Bright Empires Series #1 book trailer

by Thomas Nelson featured on the ChristianBook channel

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

The backdrop of science in The Skin Map:

As I dip into the opening chapters of The Skin Map, my mind is attempting to ferret out the knowledge that I had gleamed and gained through my prior readings of the quantum realms. The very same readings as I had outlined only hours prior in my Book Showcase focused on Time Travel! Who knew then, that all of that would become a bit necessary to read a book such as this? Or, at the very least to have a bit of a working knowledge of some of the theories that are being discussed? I feel as though it were but yesterday when I read Flatland!

I liked how Cosmio (the great-grandfather) was pointing out to his (great) grandson that those who walk across the ley lines cannot tamper with the power of their transport abilities – such as when Kit unabashedly felt that he could simply walk his girlfriend through the same alley and arrive in the exact same place he would be himself. It brings up the layers of complexity that time travel involves and how multi-layered our dimensional space truly is. It also brought back to me conversations I had whilst sitting in my high school library and contemplating the ‘layers’ of both time and reality itself as it pertained to the history in which our lives are lived. It was a dialogue of elementary quantum mechanics but I never forgot how excited my classmate was for speaking about a subject I felt he should pursue in University.

I find it instinctively distinct that Kit and Cosimo are traveling in time to alternative realities that are happening in places that they can recognise but they are not on the same ‘time-frame’ of where they originated or from whence they originally ‘came’. It’s a complex theory but the author, Lawhead has an excellent way of handling the science and getting the reader caught up in the story without feeling as though an upper level of science is required to understand the working theory of how the characters are able to travel!

A curious notation about the leys in the novel is when it’s mentioned that they are ‘time sensitive’. I found this intriguing as the premise of using the leys is not to walk into a ‘different time’ per se of your living history or the history of your time, but rather to step into a parallel alternative reality. IF then the leys are in tune with time itself it would stand to question then do all alternative realities coincide with our own time? And, if they do, how is that even possible? Whereas the opening of portals occur at sunrise or sunset, which I found even more curious as when I read the novel “The Golden Hour” by Maiya Williams she used this same theory as a basis of the time travel in her story. Is there concrete evidence floating in and around this premise? Hence the reason she called traveling at sunset as “the golden hour”, as an another example of a writer putting a ‘key’ to her story in her title!

Entering the Adventure one fissure of time in a nanosecond:

Before Kit can even understand ‘where’ he is going and ‘what’ he is meant to be helping his great-grandfather achieve, he has accidentally set off a chain of events that are digging him deeper into traveling the ley lines! I am enjoying the pace of the story, as much as I am enjoying how the story is playing out for the reader! Lawhead has included a few lovely distractions and villains for good measure (of course!), which mark in my mind that this is one of those stories you’re not quite sure what is going to ‘pop out at you’ at any given moment! Part of it reminds me of “The Seeker: The Dark is Rising“, as it has elemental familiarities for me!

As Kit proceeds to accept his great-grandfather’s beliefs in the ley lines, his first venture towards full acceptance was traveling back into the 17th Century to listen to a lecturer who ended up being Cosimo’s partner and a Quester: Sir Henry Fayth. Lawhead has a pure knack for bringing to life flamboyantly secure men of a certain age who are fully contained into their own personality as to evoke a bold presence right before your eyes! I wasn’t sure whom I admired more, his great-grandfather or Sir Henry! I had the feeling that Kit still felt out of step with all of it, the quest to recover the skin map (as the title is elusive to the adventure) and the fact he is now living counter-current to a living timeline he has always known.

Ordinary frustrations of Kit Livingstone:

I nearly cackled with humour whilst walking with Kit as he makes every vein attempt to reach his girlfriend Wilhelmina at a joint shopping rendezvous point! The way in which he would put it, it’s merely a task for switching tracks (for the London tube system), hailing down a bus, crossing through a (rather infamous) park, and heading up a road to greet his dear girlfriend! Yet. Life like art isn’t always a mere ‘walk in the park’! I was seriously having trouble containing myself, as although I had come off two rather emotional Doctor Who episodes (Turn Left & Journey’s End – clearly I am not watching this series in the proper order!) how could I not stifle a bubble of a laugh over every which way to Sunday his life is being affected by a comedy of errors!? Those are the particular and precise moments in my own life where I start to see a stitching of a pattern take hold inside my mind’s eye. Were the events that for me, in those singular moments, rather disastrous really as such? Or, were they universal signs of a serendipitous ripple of coincidence that was writ to happen if only for certain paths to cross at the right ‘moment in time’? Have you naught noticed the same in your own life? People and places you might never have become acquainted with if your life hadn’t altered its course even to the smallest degree to have you arrive at a place you never had been, and yet, a purpose was met that was not of your prior knowledge?

The interaction with his long-lost great-grandfather is purely classic as far as these meetings generally go, but what I liked about it which set it a part from most meetings such as these is the manner in which his great-grandfather was delivering the ‘news of his life’! I liked how his great-grandfather (of whom he was apparently named for as they share the same name! ‘Kit’ isn’t his proper first name, Cosimo is!) counter-balanced Kit’s cocky-headed responses by a calm, collected, and deeply humourous dictation of the facts! The insertion of British phrases and slang made it altogether priceless for me! As I oft am eager to read a full-on Brit novel replete with their own stylings of vernacular!

Review of The Skin Map:

A wanton wanderer simply known as “Kit” flounders around in an ill-attempt at sorting out his life and the path he would like to follow. He never expected to take an unexpected trip to an alternative reality parallel to his own time when his great-grandfather appeared out of nowhere. The swirling of thunder, rain, and storm was actually a gateway arch into traveling along the ley lines. This sets him on a course he is not even sure he belongs, whilst learning the history and technique of this sort of travel, his gravest concern is reconnecting with Wilhelmina, of whom was lost when he recklessly attempted to bring her with him.

Wilhelmina may not have believed the far-fetched excuse that her lackluster boyfriend Kit had given her as a plausible reason for missing her shopping excursion, but finding herself lost on a desolate road made her question if he was telling her the truth. The nearly forgotten language of her grandmother (German) came in handy when she was rescued by a German-speaking man (Englebert) on his way out of the country. Her journey began the moment she accepted his offer to take her with him. What I found most incredible is that her side of the story is leading her to finding her true self as a baker and as a businesswoman. Whereas I am not as sure if she would have had as much growth in her own time as she is having in the 17th Century! Prague is beautifully brought to life through her adventure of setting up a bakery with her rescuer!

At nearly the half-way junction point, Lawhead starts to cast a curious new reality upon the infamous landmarks in England that we are all most familiar with as to having a purpose other than what it appears to be. For such an instance, Stonehenge in this novel is referenced as being a portal – a proper hub for extracting oneself through time into another dimension separate from our own. Now, I am not sure the validity of this claim, but I do know that there is more to Stonehenge than meets the eye! And, surely more than claiming that it’s a gigantic telescope! What makes the science plausible in the story is how close the quantum sciences are coming to terms with everyday reality.

Wilhelmina’s spunky spirit shines brightly when she’s describing to Englebert how to get the bakery back online by incorporating coffee! The hilarity of the situation is that she’s a woman from the 20th century attempting to explain this to a man of the 17th! And, his confusion reigns supreme! Whilst Englebert embarked on a sojourn quest to get her blasted beans, he made a discovery on the docks that could change everything! Like most men who encounter adversity, his spirit only started to brighten once he saw a turning of the tide! He was still on the fence about her plan to turn the bakery into a profit when she introduced him to the bitter coffee, of which he felt was atrocious! She calmly replied to his vexation that it’s a triumph as they can serve sweets to compliment the bitter! Spoken like a true woman!

 [This post is in-progress! Drop back to see the concluding thoughts! Alas! I need to re-ILL! Oy!]

This book review is brought to you by:

Sci-Fi November | Hosted by Rinn Reads

{SOURCES: Sci-Fi November Badge provided by Rinn Reads for participants to advert the month long event and to encourage people to follow along with those of us who are contributing! Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. The book trailer by Thomas Nelson via Christianbook.com 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, 2013.

Related Articles:

Ley Line – (en.wikipedia.org)

Alfred Watkins – (en.wikipedia.org)

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Tuesday, 5 November, 2013 by jorielov in Alternative Reality, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Book Trailer, Philosophy, Sci-Fi November, Science Fiction, SFN Bingo, Time Travel, Treasure Hunt

*Blog Book Tour*: Virtual Blue by R.J. Sullivan

Posted Monday, 28 October, 2013 by jorielov , , , , 5 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

Virtual Blue by R.J. Sullivan

{Book Two: The Adventures of Blue Shaefer series}

Virtual Blue Tour - RJ Sullivan TCM

{Book One: Haunting Blue}

Published By: Seventh Star Press, August 2013
Official Author Websites: Sullivan on Facebook; Sullivan on Twitter;
Personal Site
; Fan Club
Author Page: @ Seventh Star Press
Artist Page: Bonnie Wasson  @ Seventh Star Press
I could not source a personal site!
Available Formats: Softcover and E-Book
Page Count: 408

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a stop on the “Virtual Blue” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by Tomorrow Comes Media. I received “Virtual Blue”  in exchange for an honest review by the publisher Seventh Star Press. The book released in August 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Intrigued to Read: I always try to attempt to keep an open mind when it comes to discovering new forms of literature, as much as seeking out authors’ outside my zone of comfort! Whereupon I first learnt of this particular book and author, my initial reaction was simply thus: I would read his books anytime! Love the classic movie star vibe combined with the ghost story and leaping into lives via à la Quantum Leap! It was a precursor look into his collective works thus far along, as I gathered that he has a wicked sense of humour threaded throughout this books and I liked that aspect of his writings! His own website yields in the sub-heading to reflect his writing personality as thus as well!

It’s also a departure again for my preference for reading serial fiction in order of publication and/or in order of the series, as some books are published out of the structure of the world they are written in! Ironically or not! Laughs. There are times where I feel I can break this self-disciplined rule, and I felt I could with Virtual Blue! Let us see if I was right!

Curiously as I read the premise of this particular novel I felt like it was not entirely outside of what I’d expect to find in a story, as I am a long-term appreciator of “Charmed” (ahem! ahead of the writing derailments in latter seasons!), and I am sure this will have a connection in regards to an ill-fated film I watched (ill-fated here refers to the fact I was not meant to appreciate it!) which jumped the rails into pop culture stardom! The film I refer to is “The Matrix”, and yet, another film “Tron: Legacy” is one that I loved! However, having said all of that, I was game for a challenging read, and one that I wanted to test to see if I can carve out a niche in an urban genre mixed with the supernatural! Finding that this falls under ‘horror’ beneath the science-fiction umbrella was a bit daunting at first, as although I avoid modern horror for the most part, there are elements of stories that I enjoy that actually pertain to this branch! IF your familiar with “The Dead Zone” tv series and the “Mummy” films, you’ll know where I find myself in ‘modern’ horror, as my favourite by far are the early 1920’s-1960’s psychological suspense films that are ‘horror’ in scope, but not in grisly, gruesome, or grotesque visceral imagery! I am a quirky reader after all, dear hearts! Are you naught as well!?

Author BiographyRJ Sullivan

R. J. Sullivan’s novel Haunting Blue is an edgy paranormal thriller and the first book of the adventures of punk girl Fiona “Blue” Shaefer and her boyfriend Chip Farren. Seventh Star Press released Haunting Obsession, a Rebecca Burton Novella in 2012 and Virtual Blue, the second book in Fiona’s tale, in 2013. Seventh Star will release a new edition of Haunting Blue in early 2014. R. J.’s short stories have been featured in such acclaimed collections as Dark Faith Invocations by Apex Books and Vampires Don’t Sparkle. His newest project is the Red Lotus series of science fiction novelettes for readers of all ages. R.J. resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. Check in regularly to learn the latest about the projects of R. J. Sullivan.

Synopsis of Virtual Blue:

Did you ever wish you could escape to a virtual world? What if you could…but then couldn’t get out?

Two years after her deadly clash with a vengeful ghost, Fiona “Blue” Shaefer still can’t shake off the trauma of that night. Moving to New York with her father didn’t help. Neither did absorbing herself in her college classes. Not even her poetry provided the solace it once did. She convinces herself that ending her relationship with Eugene “Chip” Farren, her long-distance boyfriend and final tie to the horrors of that night, might bring the closure she needs. Blue travels to Bloomington to break the news to Chip in person, but her timing couldn’t be any worse.

The Sisters of Baalina, vengeful cultists who practice a new form of “techno-magic,” have targeted Chip’s multi-player videogame as the perfect environment to cast a dangerous spell to free a demoness from the very pits of hell. In the process, their plan may trap Blue in a prison of the mind with no locks, no bars, and no escape.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Spotlight on the Illustrative Art by Bonnie Wasson:
Bonnie Wasson - Artwork Credit
Artwork Credit: Bonnie Wasson

Ms. Wasson does not disappoint with her stunning visual accuracy of the images that your own mind’s eye conjures to be representative of the characters in Virtual Blue! As I have come to read two Seventh Star Press releases featuring cover art and illustrated plates by Matthew Perry, I was most delighted to have my ‘introduction’ to the artistry of Wasson! You could nearly pluck “Blue” into a lovely series of stationery sheets to musefully write your friends’ the everyday adventures you seek and enjoy! Although, this is perhaps an observation only a letter-writer would make on behalf of “Blue!”

On the left, is the plate which depicts the final encounter between Marda and Blue, in Chapter Twenty-Eight. Did you notice the reflective menacing arc of the blade!? There is emotional drama in this scene, as captured in this plate, but with the presence of a blade, twinged sharp and lethal, it adds to the emotions that your feeling as you read the scene initially!

Artwork Credit: Bonnie Wasson
Artwork Credit: Bonnie Wasson

On the right, is the plate which depicts Baalina and Blue meeting at the portal at the end of Chapter Nineteen. For every good seed there must be a bad one to off-set the imbalance, which is usually when the forces of evil wage war against the good in stories such as these, as they are forever attempting to assert their ascent over the free and just! This particular scene is exactly as its portrayed as being: a showdown of wills between Baalina and Blue!

The sharpness of her details, allows you to glimpse inside the characters’ world as though they had stepped into our own, which is always something that I look for when I observe an artist’s rendition of a writers’ work! I was full of mirth whilst reading Blue’s reaction to her ‘virtual self’ in the story (Chapter Three), and I wondered what Wasson felt once she had finished rendering Blue as Daria!? As she eclipsed the full essence of finding oneself re-imaged as an improved version by a second party!

Reflections As I Became Entrenched in Virtual Blue:

A daughter’s regret on the events that led to her mother’s death overshadow the confidence that Fiona (Blue) has for moving forward with her life. I think that is a plausible problem for most who lose their loved ones under conditions that are not afforded to being naturally inclined. Your always going to question the moments (even the nanoseconds!) that lead up to their death, and question the very will you had to effectively change the outcome; if at all possible. Unresolved grief and anger can swelter in a person’s spirit, wrecking them to see the clear path towards their future. I can see how transfixed Fiona is on the past, as she experienced an unsettling incident that left her torn away from the one person she leaned on the most: her mother! What anguish she must have endured! I speak of this, retrospectively, as I did not read “Haunting Blue” but am thankful that Sullivan provided glimpses of what occurred ‘previously’ through reflections and interactions in the present. Her relationship with her father is on the rocks as well, and I can see how that could happen due to the proposed separation the two had sustained in their relationship. Sullivan sets the scene nicely for those of us coming into this series second-hand!

I was pleasantly happy to see an exchange of poetry between Blue and Drew in the opening chapter, as I am a poet myself and oft wondered what it would be like to read poems by fellow poets in a reading session! I started young like Blue in this regard, as I was still in high school when the magic of verse and poetry nestled into my heart and etched out through my pen! I wonder if she started in her senior year, or younger, as I was a sophomore!? Perhaps that is revealed in the first book! I too, know what it is like to lose the momentum to create when the absence of words stills to a near deafening silence! Interesting thread of story shaping into the exchange between Blue and Drew! Lovely and real!

I had forgotten a bit how exciting the gaming life can become, as I was a gamer for most of my younger days, and am trying to sort out the games of ‘today’ to keep up with the changing trends! I used to love computer games like: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago?, Loom, Battle Chess, Tetris, as well as a virtual reality environment game (The Journeyman Project) from the 1990’s! It was singularly one of my favourites to play, too! The rich futuristic environment of its setting is what captured me into its world! Then, there is of course the game that was pre-loaded on my iMac which I could not play enough of: Deimos Rising! I’ll bypass the Nintendo, Sega, and PlayStation platform games that interest me. Needless to say, my gaming life is as quirky as my reading life! I was also captured by a hybrid game of Dungeons and Dragons as a teen where I had the unfortunate mishap of ‘solving’ the game-play ahead of actually ‘playing the game’ and became Assistant Dragonmaster instead! All of this is on top of traditional gaming by way of board games and card games, by which I am a dedicated player! Solarquest, Five Crowns, or Hand & Foot anyone!? I suppose you could say, I understood the inertia of building excitement for Chip and Phil whilst they were unearthing their dream game “Fantasy Free-Form”!

As a side note, the “Terror Twins” of Cyn and Van smirked a resemblance of my remembrance of the Klingon Duras sisters! And, a lot of the undercurrent terror building on behalf of Marda’s coven bespoke of episodes I watched on “Charmed”, in which, the setting of the unfolding story was not difficult to understand! I did find it a keen observation, that they would infiltrate through the upstart game in order to conquer their destiny!


Virtual Blue by R.J. Sullivan
Artwork Credit: Bonnie Wasson
Review of Virtual Blue:

Unsurprising to me, Fiona dissolves into Blue at the first meet-up with her soon-to-be-ex Chip, as she has based her self-identity on their relationship and the woman she is whilst she is around him. She has far more to give and to explore on her own path, independent of his interaction in her life, but old habits are hard to shake, when the person your attempting to break up with was there for you at such a pivotal moment in your life. I think its his attachment to her sorrowful loss that tipped the scales of uncertainty against forging a life away from him in the first place. The strength it takes to stand alone, and seek out new individuals who are more aligned with who you are ‘now’ is oft times more daunting of a task than resuming the status quo! Then, again, what if the fragment of who you were could be re-discovered through the eyes of your beloved? In only a way that a true love can bring you back from the depths of despair from whence you disappeared!? Such is the heart-aching choice Blue must decide as she embarks on a trip back to Indiana to face her past and choose her future.

As the story shifts forward, the counter-balance of good vs. evil is revealed due to the back-story of how the followers of Baalina have taken steps to assist her freedom. You start to see how determined Blue must become to shelf her own desires and forge ahead towards redeeming the liberty of everyone else instead.

By the time Blue, Phil, and Chip start to investigate, I had swirling memories of why I missed the detective and mystery series of my younger days! Innocence of youth, gleeful joy in the hunt for uncovering the mystery, and the joy of succeeding in taking down a full-on challenging adversary! I liked the tug-of-war between the threesome, as they do not always get along due to the struggle with the balance of two boys and a girl in tow whose in love with one of them! I love the classic set-up, and the irresistible intrigue that follows suit!

There are elements of fantastical lore and myth etched into the undercurrents to pitch the truth of the Kelranian historic fight against Baalina and her chosen sisters. Sullivan reaches into Arthurian lore to draw out a new seedling of inspiration to stitch the story between the past, present, and future. In this vein, the story settles into a sub-plot I found most entertaining! Sullivan has woven spirituality, religion, and faith into the pacing of the story as much as he has researched how to endeavour the reader with plausible inclusions of lore! An internal and outer struggle known throughout the centuries is at the forefront of what happens when both sides take part in a feud they did not agree to join!

Honestly, I would have loved this story truly if my eyes didn’t have to skip over all the vulgar cursing that the characters were quite attached to spewing whenever their situations turned adverse! I didn’t find it a necessary arc for the story, nor a positive attribute for Blue and Chip! And, although I appreciated the depictions of the Hell that Blue was subjected to being placed inside in order to entrap Baalina, Cyn, Van, and Marda – I think I could have fared better to have that bit shortened and have the ending stand as it is. Especially since their evil hearts were clearly evident from previous chapters! Its the ending resolution of Blue’s future that I appreciated seeing the most, as I was rather angst ridden understanding the full scope of Rebecca Burton’s!

A Most Curious Tie-In:

I was quite enthused to read in Chapter Four how the author’s depiction on the Tour Badge and Author Photograph tie-in to the story! At first, I thought perhaps its his whimsical humour settling into the fray, but no! It actually has a direct connection to the story-line and with Virtual Blue! Rock on, Mr. Sullivan! That’s the equivalent of finding Hitchcock inserted into his own motion picture!

Inasmuch as the curiously able investigator Rebecca Burton being involved in this mystery, who has previously been seen in novellas and shorts! Sullivan has a way of connecting each of his stories in such a charmingly symmetrical synchronical way! Wicked! I wonder if he is going to release the Burton novellas and shorts as a stand-alone collection!?

A Notation on the Horror Aspects of the Plot:

Honestly!? It took me nearly half-way through to realise that I hadn’t surmised when the ‘horror’ of the story had even arrived! I think for the most part, my mind was happily seeing connections between series I had seen on the screen, and therefore, perhaps, my mind and heart overlooked a few things! I know there was a proper fight scene between Blue & Marda, as well as other interactions with blades, but personally I place those instances under ‘fight sequences or stand-offs’ rather than directly linked to horror!? I wonder if this book was misfiled!? Until I reached Chapter Sixteen which has an excellent representation of the differences between Heaven and Hell. Which continues to be explored the further inside the novel you venture towards.

Fly in the Ointment:

The only criticism I can give is the inclusion of vulgar expressions that irk my ire in regards to not having the heat of the moment more creatively expressed! This book did not start out falling under what I’d consider “excessive vulgarity” but it ended with my feelings that it pushed my barometer to the extreme! Mostly due to key words which were used to express or denounce certain climaxical emotions that I would consider better spent if they had been conveyed in a mannerism that befit the story in a creative way other than the method that Sullivan chose to give. This is not necessarily a criticism directed at him entirely, as I oft find myself in this quandary of a position, as my personal leanings are more towards the Shakespearean art of insultive and pernicious declarations! For this reason, I did not choose to include the book trailer for the first half of this series, “Haunting Blue”, as I was quite aghast that the words were left in, by which had to be ‘sound clipped’ out! Oy! Generally, I am always the first to fully support all materials to help a book, but this became a personal deference of choice on my behalf. I think the main reason this struck me rather severely, is after noting that Blue was a poet, I thought she might have articulated her emotions in a more eloquent way rather than in such a common way! And, I’m at a complete loss as to why all characters simply feel the need to express themselves in a manner that is not tactful or fitting to educated society! Sighs. Clearly, not every depiction of a novel in synopsis form gives way to rendering a precise foresight of what the novel will relay. Therefore, I am sure, I am in the minority who would consider this a ‘fly in the ointment’ to even mention! However, it is what it is. Except to say, that my overall enjoyment of the story itself was not darkened by this blight of words that ruffled my feathers and twitched my nose!

“Virtual Blue” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. October 28: Contest @ Jess Resides Here
  2. October 28: Review @ Jorie Loves a Story
  3. October 28: Guest Post @ Come Selahway With Me
  4. October 29: Character Interview with Blue @ Sheila Deeth Blog
  5. October 30: Guest Post @ Armand Rosamilia
  6. October 30: Special Post – 20 Questions with R.J. Sullivan @ A Haunted Head
  7. October 30: Review @ Deal Sharing Aunt
  8. October 30: Promo Spotlight @ Word to Dreams
  9. Halloween: Author Interview @  John F. Allen Ivory Blaque
  10. Halloween: Character Post of Rebecca Burton @ Spellbindings
  11. Halloween: Character Interview of Rebecca Burton @ Library Girl Reads and Reviews
  12. All Saint’s Day: Review @ Bee’s Knees Reviews
  13. All Saint’s Day: Guest Post @ Beauty in Ruins
  14. November 2: Guest Post @ Azure Dwarf
  15. November 3: Review @ Angela Meadon

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:
Tomorrow Comes Media Tour Hoston my Bookish Events Featured on JLAS!

{SOURCES: Cover art and inside plate illustrations of “Virtual Blue” by Bonnie Wasson; R.J. Sullivan’s photograph and biography, and the blog tour badge were all provided by Tomorrow Comes Media and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Blog tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

Related Articles:

Guest Post: How Seventh Star Press Stacks Up in R.J. Sullivan’s Haunting Obsession – (bmdimension.blogspot.com)

Interview with R.J. Sullivan, Author of Haunting Obsession – (ireadabookonce.com)

My interview with R.J. Sullivan about Virtual Blue – (sillyhatbooks.com)

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Posted Monday, 28 October, 2013 by jorielov in Arthurian Legend, Board and Card Games, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Fantasy Fiction, Fly in the Ointment, Gaming, Ghost Story, Good vs. Evil, Horror, Indie Author, PC or Mac Games, Poetry, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Supernatural Fiction, Tomorrow Comes Media, Urban Fantasy, Urban Life, Virtual Reality

*Blog Book Tour*: The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Muvihill

Posted Sunday, 29 September, 2013 by jorielov , , , , , , 0 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Mulvihill
[Book One in the Steel Roots series]

Published by: Seventh Star Press, 12 July 2013.
Official Novel Websites: The Boxcar Baby Blog & The Steel Roots Facebook Page
Converse on Twitter: @JLMulvihill & #boxcarbaby
Author Page: @ Seventh Star Press
Artist Page: Matthew Perry @ Seventh Star Press; Portfolio
Available Formats: Softcover and E-book
Page Count: 274

The Boxcar Baby Book Tour | Tomorrow Comes Media

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a stop on “The Boxcar Baby” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by Tomorrow Comes Media. I received a complimentary copy of “The Boxcar Baby” in exchange for an honest review by the publisher Seventh Star Press. The book released on 12 July 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. This marks my first stop as a Tour Host for Tomorrow Comes Media!

Author Biography:

J.L. MulvihillBorn in Hollywood and raised in San Diego, CA, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past fifteen years. Her début novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaging fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of steampunk, published through Kerlak Publishing.  The Boxcar Baby, the first novel of her Steel Roots Series, was released by Seventh Star Press in the summer of 2013.

J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, among them “Chilled Meat”, a steampunk thriller found in the Dreams of Steam II-Of Bolts and Brass, anthology (Kerlak Publishing) and “The Leprechaun’s Story”, a steampunk urban Fantasy found in the anthology, Clockwork, Spells, & Magical Bells (Kerlak Publishing)J.L. is very active with the writing community, and is the events coordinator for the Mississippi Chapter of Imagicopter known as the Magnolia-Tower.  She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA), The Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG), as well as the Arts Council of Clinton, and the Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.

Inspired to Read: Nearly all of my best ‘finds’ for the science fiction realms have been serendipitous in nature! You see, if I hadn’t been roaming around the bookish blogosphere a week ago, I might not have seen a curious little tour badge with “Tomorrow Comes Media” on it! Nor would I have suspected to click over to scope out the tour company and the authors that they represented! Had I not kept an open mind towards discovering ‘something!’ curious and unexpected, I might not have known about this author and book! This was the same way I had stumbled across “The Clockwork Carnival” in August [2013], the forthcoming “Sci-Fi November” (of whose badge is in my sidebar; my post on it coming the first week of October!), and the mere fact that I had chosen this particular Autumn to serve as a gateway back into a genre that my heart first came to know at the age of seventeen! I lay claim to that as my starting ground into the ‘literature’ side of things, but you’ll have to come back for my “Sci-Fi November” postings to learn the full story of how I’ve been happily consuming all-things sci-fi for the well full of my life!

As you may or may not know, it took me a bit to resolve what to read as my ‘first’ Steampunk selection, as much as I became attached to this revolutionary genre where the lines blur on what a story can attach itself into being, and jettison the reader off into such fantastical realms and worlds, that it nearly takes your breath away! Some aspects of Steam are subtle, others are full-on adventurous catalysts to transport you into a world bent on steam technology! I love the vitality of choice!! Therefore, when I saw a blog tour announcement for this story, I knew I had found my ‘second’ Steam novel and author!

Be sure to read my poster advert for this tour to glimpse my motivation to read “The Boxcar Baby”.

Synopsis of the Story:

The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Muvihill

Born in a boxcar on a train bound for Georgia. At least that is what Papa Steel always told AB’Gale. But now, fifteen years later, the man who adopted and raised her as his own is missing and it’s up to AB’Gale to find him. Aided only by a motley gang of friends, AB’Gale train hops her way across the United States in a desperate attempt to find her papa and put her life and family back the way it was. Her only guide is a map given to her by a mysterious hobo, with hand written clues she found hidden in her papa’s spyglass. Here is the Great American Adventure in an alternate steampunk dystopian world, where fifteen-year-old AB’Gale Steel learns that nothing is as it seems, but instead is shrouded in secrets and mysteries … and that monsters come in all shapes and forms.

Notations on Artwork & Design:

The Boxcar Baby | Interior Shot 1
Artwork Credit: Matthew Perry

In this particular day and age, where book cover designs are based more upon stock images and less on the artistically creative book cover designers, whose original artwork is all but lost; I must confess, what impressed me the most about this book, was the diversity of art, and the choice of which scenes to illustrate! I have always held a special place in my heart for illustrators, as they are encouraging our imaginations to jettison us off to that internal place where all stories live inside our hearts! They enable us to help stitch together imagery and scenes, that we may or may not, have been able to visually conceive on our own.

They create a tangible palette in which the scope of the story is percolated through a lens similar to a motion picture’s storyboard, yet instead of having the ‘images’ set to fluid motion by ‘camera’, we get to expand on what is being presented and wholly enter the realm of the literary unknown! Almost as though we jumped through hyperspace and entered a completely new dimension!

Such is the happenstance adventures of readers everywhere, who are given such a breadth of light by artwork that co-creates the story by which the author first conceived!

Mr. Perry’s first image seen on the left of the unidentifiable ‘person’ holding what appears to be a container or a particular ‘type’ of something that comes with a sling strap for your shoulder, is bang-on accurate to the descriptive narrative that Muvihill supports in Chapter 8!  This scene takes place at a train yard at night, in a discernible city of hidden suspense! What I liked about this snapshot of the character being brought forward into AB’Gale’s life at this moment in time, is that it shows that she is never going to know who or whom is going to cross her path! She’s set alight on a course where the most unsuspecting people she encounters, might hold ‘key’s to where she is headed next!

This is a metaphor for life as well, because its most oft known that the people who come to your aide or give you guidance are generally not always the ones you think will be akin to provide the information you need! No, actually in life as in stories, its the people you might overlook that provide the best advisers who help guide you on your path!

There was a second illustration that I was going to include in my review, but the chapter in which it was revealed has left me wondering why this particular thread was inside the story!? Of all the chapters, Chapter 54 was by far the most horrific!! I was not expecting a nose-dive into the realms of gruesome horror, yet that is the twist of a turn this story took at that junction! I would rather bypass it, and focus more on the main thread of story, by which, I enjoyed the most!

In regards to the cover art itself, a sense of urgency is playing out before us, as the locomotive is on fast approach, with a heightened sense of foreboding intensity! The gnarled and curling of the trunk of the tree, nearly reflects a sense of “unyielding twists of time and place”, as a curious hinting that the train can act as both a conveyor of people and goods, but also of destiny. I had been lamenting upon the visual symbolism of including the ‘tree with the train’ in full sight of the reader,… yet at the conclusion of the story, where I was expecting to arrive at a clarification of the symbolism, I was left instead with a questionable ending!

[My musings prior to the ending:]

Of all the times I’ve looked at the cover, I didn’t quite see what I saw whilst polishing this post to publish!! I was moving my mouse up and down, darting through everything to check the flow, as much as to check the rhythm of what I was wanting to convey about reading the story. Somewhere between the moving of the mouse and watching the screen, the cover art in this post was full in my sights, and therein, I noticed what I could not see whilst observing the cover art ‘flat and close’!!! The juxtaposition of AB’Gale Steel’s roots! It was like a lightning bolt had struck itself upon my desk, and all the logic of the choice in art electrified itself into my brain! The train’s boxcar in sight around the curve is “AB Gale Logs”; the workhouse factory is in the background with its garish stacks of smoke billowing towards the sky; and portions of a map are bleeding through the background into the foreground! The map bits I did originally see, as I thought I saw an overlay of a compass originally, but to see her origins and present circumstance coming rushing into view — kismet!

 

In total, Mr. Perry supplied 2 illustrative plates to give The Boxcar Baby a highly unique periscope into the lifeblood of the Steel Roots! His perception and understanding of the narrative is spot-on! And, I commend his artistic eye as much as his conveyance of the emotions, heart, and climatic moments of the evolving story! Even if I didn’t agree of the story shift, the illustrations honour the context in full! IF I could have picked one scene to be illustrated, it would have been of the girls’ new wardrobe, which hearkened quick to mind everything that I simply adore about Steampunk couture!

I look forward with whet anticipation of which Seventh Star Press novel I might encounter his brilliant artwork again! He’s truly an asset to the writers whose novels are published with the Press!

My Review of The Boxcar Baby:

Miss AB’Gale Steel, is a pure spitfire girl, full of strong-minded grit, who draws strength out of adversity, and endures hardship by bracing herself against self-pity. She latches her heart, her mind, and her spirit to the world by which she grew up in, as a method of memory against the vexatiousness life she feels consumed by. If it weren’t for percuring huckleberry friends: Charlotte, Raine, Lyza, and Freckles, I dare not presume to know how she would have found the strength to overcome! The girls owe allegiance towards each other as members of a surviving tribe of girls’ cast out and into a perpetual System that works against their well-being. Strengthened in their combined resolve, their sisterhood pits them against any opponent known or unknown.

By the fortuitousness of keen observation, these young women will assert their right to freedom by declaring their right to liberty. The woman who was behind their misery, Ms. Marcs, made me recollect my disdain for Brucklehurst who was the inflicter of desolation for Jane Eyre. Tragedy, flight of freedom, and an instinct for adventure transports these lovely huckleberries into a life of living by their wits!  

The girls usage of veritable language choices, are a direct reflection of other distinctive times in history, where the choice of words could not only separate you into a class structure, but be a reflective mirror into your place of origin. This is an ingenious ploy by Mulvihill to construct a fuller picture of the world building she set off to accomplish, as their attentive nature to using slang, akin to the quick-wit of the 1920s or of East Londoners’ Cockney, provides them with a unique voice of character! She sets into motion a world that we can draw a familiar line against, but purports it into a new dimension that we have not yet visited!

I was taken aback when the story shifted off the tracks of Steampunk suspense, and entered into the macabre horror of creatures who live in the pitch black of caves! I felt as though there was a story shift in the ending chapters that was not foreshadowed or even built into the first half of the book! I was settled into the story, and even thought I had found metaphoric meanings into the narratives, yet in the end, I felt disillusioned and saddened to see, that where I thought this adventure was leading me was not to be!

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Posted Sunday, 29 September, 2013 by jorielov in Alternative History, Coming-Of Age, Dystopian, Fly in the Ointment, Folklore, Horror, Indie Author, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Tomorrow Comes Media, Trains, Young Adult Fiction