BOOK REVIEW: The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night

The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night – pictured with Fido the Saguaro.

There are times when you start reading a book without knowing what to expect. Such was the case with D.E. Night’s young adult (YA) fantasy book, The Crowns of Croswald. It was familiar yet wholly new at the same time – and it turned into an energetic, comfortable reading experience.

This review comes from a writer and reader who rarely dip his toes into the genre. When it comes to fantasy and YA fiction, my experiences primarily orbit Lord of the Rings, Narnia, The Kingkiller Chronicles, and the Harry Potter series.

It’s the latter I felt largely influenced The Crowns of Croswald and in the beginning those similarities were strong, even for someone who has not read the Harry Potter (HP) adventures for years. I found myself feeling as though I’d been transported back to those days of Hogwarts, to that memorable era when I read the first three HP books to my daughter. And this was not a bad feeling at all.

In fact, the more I read, the more I was engrossed in Night’s tale, told simply and elegantly, and found myself absorbed by it. This is not HP at all, but an original story told in that cozy YA style (imagine HP as a genre), and done quite well. The author’s world-building game is top notch.

Lovely illustrations adorn each chapter title.

The book’s chapters are dotted at the outset with charming illustrations also reminiscent of the small drawings seen at the top of each HP chapter. Only these illustrations are done to enhance the story of Ivy Lovely, a young woman who has no idea how exciting her life is about to become.  When we first meet her she’s hidden under a magic-killing screen, little realizing her potential as she toils in Castle Plum’s kitchen ensuring each dragon-cooked meal is as tasty as possible. Her only real friend at this point is the woods dwarf, Rimbrick, who offers her hints to her own destiny, not to mention all the books she can handle. It’s when she’s kicked out of Castle Plum that her life begins to change, particularly when she lands in the magical Halls of Ivy, a school where anything can happen and usually does thanks to the scrivenists – sort of like wizards but here the wands are quills – sort of. At school she befriends the witty Fyn Greeley, gets into a bit of trouble, and more importantly seeks to unlock the mysteries of her past, why she was brought to the school, and deal with the nefarious Dark Queen. More happens, a lot more, but readers will have to discover those gems for themselves.

Another point I enjoyed was the use of the name D.E. Night, which readers of Croswald will discover is a name used in the book itself. Early on, in fact, Rimbrick hands off three books for Ivy to read. Each is written by Derwin Edgar Night.  The subtle inclusion of the author into the work reminded me of Doyle’s inclusion of Watson into the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, a trick I can get behind with ease. It’s a great way to supercharge the imagination for readers.

Those looking for a well-paced read in the vein of authors J.K. Rowling and Patrick Rothfuss (without the adult-level syllabus) look no further than D.E. Night’s plucky Croswald series, now at two books and counting.

Check out Night’s website here.

BOOK REVIEW: Crack Open the Spine of the Dragon

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Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson -Tor Books (June 4, 2019)

It is possible to read every book written by Kevin J. Anderson; difficult, yes, but not unheard of. Crazier things have happened. Other writers Hulk-out with envy at his prolific nature, and not only that, his books are engaging. That’s always a bonus.

In his latest offering, Spine of the Dragon, Anderson tours readers through the popular genre of intellectual fantasy fiction, which leans more literary than, say, those old Conan pulps, but it’s just as adventurous. For me, someone who’s read The Saga of the Seven Suns series and many of Anderson’s other science fiction (Dune for life!) titles, delving into an all new fantasy realm was a welcome change. With that pesky Game of Thrones now decided, and no new George R.R. Martin book on the horizon (same for my other favorite, Patrick Rothfuss), there’s no better time to meet the ancient wreths, explore the Commonwealth and Ishara, and wake the dragon!

The book begins with introductions, jumping as Anderson does, from character to character, then back again, until we the readers feel the rhythm of the work. We meet King Adan Starfall, the disgraced Brava Elliel, King Kollanan, and others, though not in a relaxed way. There’s a nasty sand storm, an attack from the sea at Mirrabay, insane monsters, and the return of a frightening long-gone army all within the first fifty pages. And did I mention the maps? It’s not worth raising your sword if there isn’t a map at the beginning of a fantasy book. Raise your sword high, because there’s more than one in Spine of the Dragon.

While some readers may see a few similarities, such as the frostwreths, who felt a bit like White Walkers to me; and the book’s toggle switch between characters may remind them of other fantasy novels, which Anderson has done forever by the way, there’s a lot to nerd over in Spine. The backstory of the wreths fascinated me, as did the godling’s relationship with the Isharans, and there’s so much to explore. As with Anderson’s other books, you’re never ready for them to end when they do.

And if there’s one thing Anderson is good at, it’s world building. Spine presents a well-molded civilization with a crisp plot and intriguing characters, told in that winning Anderson style, which for me is like hanging out with an old friend. As with most tales of magic, strange creatures, and stalwart warriors; you just can’t get it all in one book. So be on the lookout for book two already in the sandy Commonwealth pipeline!

Buy Spine of the Dragon here!

Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2017

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The year 2017 will go down in history for a lot of reasons; some of those reasons being the addition of quality literature to the libraries of the world’s dwindling army of readers. Over the last year, possibly in an attempt to cower from real world political poison, I’ve disappeared into 20 books, including nonfiction and fiction, I found my share of quality literature, not to mention my escape.

Having read everything from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry to the first six entries of Don Pendleton’s Executioner novels, the year of lit in the Whitehurst house was a good one. Take a look at my top five picks for the year. While they didn’t all come out last year, I read them in 2017, which is how my list works.

Zero-1Zero Avenue by Dietrich Kalteis

Who doesn’t love a punk rock masterpiece? That’s what I found when I read Zero Avenue. This is one gritty punk tale chock full of crime and the desperation of survival. Zero takes no prisoners in its detail and scope and keeps kicking through to the very end. What a movie this would make. And the score would rock. Someone better be on that.

A blast in the face, full of punk and vigor, and one of the best reads of the year for me.

Get your copy here.

Moving-1Moving Through Life Ungracefully by S.M. Pastore

There’s something satisfying about reading words that have echoed in your own mind at various times in your life. That’s how this collection of poetry and prose found me. It’s a quick read, but worth repeat reading, just to relish in the word choices and raw honesty found within.

For anyone who needs words whispered gracefully, honestly, and without remorse, lean into this book.

Find the book here.

ThrillMe.jpgThrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy

Meeting and listening to Benjamin Percy talk were highlights of the year for me. He’s a charismatic speaker and has an impressive literary resume. This book, on the craft of writing and story-telling, should be on the shelf of every writer, whether they’re jotting their first line or their gazillionth. I zipped through it like a mad man. After meeting him and getting his John Hancock on the book, I couldn’t help but hear his captivating voice speaking every sentence.

Super informative, fun, and enthralling book.

Find it here.

GaslightGirl-1The Gaslight Girl: A Decisive Devices Novella by Hargrove Perth

Billed as the first in the Decisive Devices Steampunk series, The Gaslight Girl functions just as well as a standalone tale, though readers will most certainly want to explore the other entries when they turn the last page. Get to know Halloran Frost, get to know a cinderwench, and sink your teeth into this thrilling romp in the hottest genre around.

For those with a taste for authors such as Gail Carriger and Kevin J. Anderson, not to mention the classics by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, familiarize yourself with this series.

Find the book here.

NameWind-1The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Imagine Lord of the Rings with a Harry Potter storyline and you come close to the breathtaking tale that is The Name of the Wind. In fact, the previous sentence doesn’t begin to describe how wonderful I found this book and its main character, Kvothe. I simply could not put it down. The first in a planned trilogy (I hope there are more than that) got me so pumped, I very nearly grabbed the second to read immediately after finishing. Instead I put it aside to savor the anticipation, though it will be read in 2018.

Book One of the Kingkiller Chronicles. Buy it. Love it. Love it twice.

Get it here.

REVIEW: Steampunk boils beautifully in The Gaslight Girl by Hargrove Perth

Steampunk is a subgenre to behold in the science fiction and fantasy world. It’s the stuff of clockwork wonder and corseted amazement and, for many; it’s something readers can’t get enough of. Many, however, don’t quite get it. Exactly what is steampunk?
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The best way to describe the steampunk life is to imagine a futuristic world with fantastic mechanical creatures, airships and weaponry, but rather than advance technology, picture it made with iron and copper, gears and cranks, and powered with steam. Picture men and women of the future, but in a setting more closely comparable to old London, of the time when Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper skulked around.

Author Hargrove Perth has steampunk down. In her fast-paced novella, The Gaslight Girl, she’s taken a story familiar to all of us and injected hot steam in its veins. The Cinderella story, full of despair and ugly-on-the-inside stepsisters, forms the bare bones in this the story of young Halloran Frost. Cinderella she is not, for this girl is armed, corseted, and chock full of attitude, not to mention the heir of her father’s gas company and his dark secrets. The Gaslight Girl has all the gears, mechanical creatures, airships and steam-fueled spirit that have enamored readers to the genre across the world.

Perth’s novella is part one of the Decisive Devices series, with more excitement sure to come. This exciting ride is surely not over yet.

For those with a taste for authors such as Gail Carriger and Kevin J. Anderson, not to mention the classics by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, you’ll want to get to know Halloran Frost and Perth’s Decisive Devices novella.

Learn more about Hargrove Perth here.

Order The Gaslight Girl here.

Mantula: Have some discord – book release

Mantula Book

I’m celebrating the release of “Mantula: Have some discord” today! This weird little book started as a handful of blog posts and quickly turned into a full-blown multimedia project. I was having too much fun to stop writing the story of Doug and his curse. When I finally did come to the end, I decided to collect the comics, the chapters, and the fake news stories into this single volume.

I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did making it.

Check out the book on Amazon (PRINT COPY)

Check it out here for e-book (KINDLE)

Read the blurb:

Curses, addiction, despair. Add in a couple of Catholic saints and a meth addict-turned quail and you’ve got the makings of Doug’s new life. It isn’t one he wanted. He never asked to wake up in the body of a tarantula, but that’s what happened. And it’s up to him to break the curse. Or die trying. Told in written form, comic form, through emails and news stories; Mantula is part super hero and part monster, and a unique multimedia experience.

Book Review: An Average Curse (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn)

Book Review: An Average Curse (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn)

Fantasy is that genre that always sticks with you. It’s a brain freeze that never quite thaws, a Starburst fruit chew that glues itself to your teeth, and a pair of kick ass slippers that never gets tossed – no matter how many times you’ve slipped your smelly bare feet into them.

Wands dripping with sexy magic are one reason why that taste never leaves, as are iron swords and sparkly elves, mystical lands readers will never actually set foot on, and dreams of conquering boiling evil; they’re all reasons why we get turned on by the genre. In those worlds, which many authors actually map out, readers find spells, prophecies, elves, ogres, fairies and all the rest. And it’s the best.

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In Rue’s recent fiction novel, “An Average Curse (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn),” readers will find almost all of this, including a map. Unlike other fantasy tomes, however, (where 25 pages go toward describing the local fauna), this is efficient fantasy – punchy and light, but never missing a beat. While written for the young adult crowd, it’s not a bad read for grownups either. Most of us adults have revisited Harry Potter, Narnia, the Hobbit, at some point. This is that kind of fun, especially for those of us into stories of youth and experience.

In the first Hawthorn book, readers are introduced to Flynn, Hazel and Po. These three friends always seem to have something going on, and find themselves knee deep in the thick of trouble before too long. The book is a magical trip inspired by New Zealand’s Maori culture – and deftly navigates fiction, mythology and reality. You can tell Rue did a bit of research here.

And, thanks to her, the fantasy realm is another spell richer.

Those who like fantasy, with a hot helping of magic wands included, and strong female leads ala Hunger Games and Vampire Academy, will find An Average Curse a worthy addition to their genre bookshelf.

Check out the newly released second book in the Chronicles of Hawthorn, “Key to the Journey: A Magical Adventure,” right here.