Pandragon Dan

Pandragon Dan

Author/Reviewer/Blogger

Top Five - Indie Books You Should Be Reading

Being a reviewer on the website Read2Review , I’ve had the chance to read the works of some truly talented writers. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to settle down with a good book now and then, writing by one of the mainstream authors – but I have a special affinity for indie authors, probably because I am one myself.

 

Indie authors used to get painfully overlooked in the days before – but thankfully these days, readers are more open to trying new things. With technology advanced in such a way that people can release their books dirt cheap – or even give them away for free, readers are able to discover hidden gems and new talent. What I love about indie authors is the way that they can put out the story the way THEY intended to, without any input from a publisher or agent. And I think this is great.

 

Whilst I always go into a review with the purpose of being unbiased, I do occasionally find authors that I just fall in love with and books that I find are just so effortless and enjoyable to read. Therefore, in a slight change to my usual Top Five Tips, I’m going to showcase the five indie novels that I think you should be checking out. I’ve tried to mix and match the genres a little so that I don’t talk about the same thing, so there should be something for everyone here. Some of these authors are published through small publishing companies – but for the sake of argument I am including them as indie authors (because indie authors doesn’t necessarily mean self published in my opinion, any author that is published through a lesser known publishing house can be considered indie).

 

So, here we go. These are the five books and authors that I think you should be checking out. I’ll also include a few links to check them out yourself.

 

1. A Ranger’s Tale by Mysti Parker

 

Ok, I’ll admit it – I’m somewhat of a fan boy of Mysti Parker. She’s kinda like my writing idol at the moment! When I first read A Ranger’s Tale, I honestly didn’t think I was gonna like it – but I did. In fact, whereas I hardly read romance books before, I have a greater appreciation of them thanks to this novel.

 

A Ranger’s Tale is an Adult Romantic Fantasy set in the world of Tallenmere, a world where elves are the main race and the centre for the characters. A Ranger’s Tale is set around a high elf called Caliphany and a half-elf called Galadin. Cali lives a sheltered life, but longs for something more, whereas Galadin is trying to escape his tortured past. Their paths meet and fireworks start to sparkle.

 

In many ways, A Ranger’s Tale uses a lot of fantasy tropes that have been used before – but the good thing about it is that Mysti Parker doesn’t go out of her way to make it overly magical and over the top, but rather creates situations that we ourselves would find ourselves in. The characters are brilliantly crafted and have real emotional depth, so we can sympathise with them and their plights. I think this is because the chapters are told in a POV way so we can see what the characters are thinking and feel their thoughts. A bold move but it works well.

 

I love the character of Cali – she’s a very strong heroine and I think that female readers will love her for her feistiness and vulnerability. Galadin is equally well rounded and likeable. The other character of mention is Jayden, a wood elf that has the hots for Cali. Even though he does start off a little sinister, I must admit I did feel sorry for him at the end.

 

In order to make Fantasy work, the world and characters must feel realistic and relatable. And A Ranger’s Tale does this brilliantly – the characters are beautifully crafted and the world of Tallenmere is realised enough to believe that it does exist. And Mysti even grants us some backstory of the world in her blog and Facebook and this is great. I love hearing about the history of fantasy worlds and their creation – makes me appreciate the story more.

 

The next book in the series, Sereyna’s Song is out very soon and I can’t wait to read it. But until then, let me just say one more thing about A Ranger’s Tale. It’s a fantastic book – even if the ideas have been done before, Mysti has found a way to use them so that you don’t care that you’ve seen this before. Her characters are brilliant, the romance is genuine (if a little steamy at times) and the story just sucks you in so that you have to keep reading. In short, read it!

 

Amazon.com (Kindle)

Amazon.com (Paperback)

Amazon.co.uk (Kindle)

Amazon.co.uk (Paperback)

Smashwords

 

2. Airion – Return to Zire by J.S Council

 

For those wanting a Fantasy/Sci-Fi with a more young adult edge, I suggest checking out Airion – Return to Zire.

 

Now, I actually gave this author a bit of a hard time in my review, given that the version I was given to review had a lot of spelling mistakes and formatting issues – but these have now been corrected so I can now concentrate on the book as it is. And it’s a very entertaining book indeed!

 

The novel is set around 2 twins, Kobi and Rali, that thought they had a pretty simple life on land. Just before their 14th birthday, the twins are separated and dragged to the underwater land of Airion – where they find that this is their true heritage. Now stuck in a war between two nations, the twins discover that they have a higher purpose – and secret powers that they soon discover will shape the world.

 

It’s a very exciting story, filled with colourful characters and some very impressive fight scenes. Reading this, I actually imagined that this would work well as a Manga/Anime. And given that the author lives in Japan that would be a great idea. Also, J.S is one of the hardest working and down to earth people I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to, via guest blogs and interviews and I was worried that she would find my review a little harsh. But she took the comments with grace and dignity – that is the sign of a good author!

 

Do please check this novel out. It’s an exciting read and one that I do recommend. In fact I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series as the first one left me wanting to know more. The content isn’t too violent either, so younger readers will be able to enjoy this as much as adults.

 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

3. CASTLES: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors by Benjamin X. Wretlind

 

Now, I’m not usually a fan of horror if I’m being honest. Main reason – I just don’t find a lot of them very scary. Most of them seem too heavily of blood and gore for their scares and honestly, that just doesn’t do it for me. Horror needs to have an atmosphere, to build up the tension and terror, not just have loads of body parts everywhere.

 

With Castles, it has no problems. Yes, there is a fair share of blood and disgusting images – but that’s not the focus of the book. The main focus is around the central character, Maggie, and the journey she takes. Living in a trailer park in an almost apocalyptic atmosphere (with constant thunder and dust storms), the book chronicles Maggie’s descent into madness as she starts off an innocent young girl and then transforms into a psychotic killer.

 

That being said, you actually can sympathise with Maggie a little as she goes through a lot of trauma in her life, ranging from an overbearing and overly protective mother to abusive spouses and boyfriends. Her only consolation is the spirit of her grandmother, who advised Maggie to “clean up her messes”. Acting as a kind of guardian angel for her, Maggie finds inner strength to gather pieces for her “Castle”. Unfortunately, this means bad news for those who end up crossing her!

 

Castles did what no other horror book I’ve read has done – disturbed me long after putting the book down. And that is what a good horror should do. I think that it’s because this book is told entirely from the POV of Maggie that she’s almost trying to justify her actions as the right thing. This makes her even creepier as she seems utterly desensitised to her actions. Whether you think she’s a victim or a villain is left up to the reader to decide.

 

Castles has a great atmosphere, a psychological terror and a main character that is both monstrous and innocent at the same time. If you want a great horror read then look no further than this one. Although I doubt you’ll ever want to use scissors again afterwards!

 

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Smashwords

 

4. Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat by Andrez Bergen

 

Humphrey Bogart, Blade Runner, Mad Max, Jap-Anime, Australian Humour, Film Noir – these are just SOME of the things I could use to describe this novel but it wouldn’t do it justice. This book is all these things and more!

 

From the title alone, you could almost expect to be reading a sort of obscure comedy – but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, we get a post-apocalyptic city that is bleak and unfriendly. With the threats of “Deviants” ever present in the last remaining city, it’s up to our hero Floyd to find a way to save the day.

 

Thing is, Floyd doesn’t care about that. All he wants to do is to drink himself stupid and forget his tragic past – which is the result of his job as a Seeker. Constantly referencing obscure and classic films, Floyd tells us his story in his own way – through good old Aussie slang! He’s both humorous and depressing, but thankfully the author treats the main character with enough respect to know when to take it seriously and when to have fun. And because the book is written with the Aussie sense of humour and style in mind, it adds a fresh new look to a subject that has otherwise been done to death.

 

You wouldn’t think that a novel could fit in so many themes and references without being convoluted, but Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat blends it all nicely like a perfect set of ingredients to make a fine whiskey. Not once was I ever bored when reading this book and really wanted to know what was going to happen to the main character. Hands down this is my favourite indie book that I’ve read so far and I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a unique science fiction read.

 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

5. The Priest and the Peaches by Larry Peterson
You may think just by looking at the previous books I’ve mentioned here that I only review Science-Fiction and Fantasy type books, but actually, on occasion, I do like to read and review “slice of life” books. The Priest and the Peaches was one of those slice of life stories that I was handed as part of a blog tour. Admittedly, I didn’t think too much of it on first hearing about it – but on reading the book I fell in love with it.
Set in the 60’s, the Peach family have recently lost their father and now have to cope without his guiding hand. It forces Teddy and Joanie to grow up quickly and become the guardians of the household through no fault of their own. From here on, we follow the trials and tribulations of the Peaches as they struggle to cope without their father. But they are not alone and there are those who are willing to help them cope.
This is one of those rare gems that you discover when leaving your comfort zone. This book is just a beautiful to read. It’s a real testament to the bond of family and the kindness of human spirit. The book does have religious overtones to it and is the overall theme of the book. Seeing as religion tends to often be shown negatively in some fiction (and even in real life), it’s nice to show the positive side of religion – after all, the recurring theme of the book is L-Y-N (Love Your Neighbour) and this is what keeps the Peach family together in times of hardship.
I honestly didn’t think I’d be recommending this book, but I just felt like I had to. It’s a wonderfully written tale that is moving, funny and genuinely heart-warming. We genuinely care about the Peach family and hope that they end up right at the end. I actually think even the hardest of hearts will probably find a tear in their eye reading this tale. If you just want to read something that will warm your heart then look no further to this one.
 
Those are my picks for five novels that I think deserve a chance to be read. Please give them a try – you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below.
 
Pandragon

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10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Japan - A Guest Post By J.S Council

In the first of what I hope will be many guest blogs, I am today delighted to be joined by Author J.S. Council, Author of the Airion Series. I gave her the opportunity to talk about anything that she wanted to and provided me with this extremely interesting post about Japan. Being hugely influenced by Japanese culture in my writings, I found this post extremely insightful - even including some stuff I didn't even know about the country. Some stuff even surprised me!

 

A huge thanks to J.S for such a wonderful guest post. I do recommend you check her writing out as she writes some extremely entertaining sci-fi/fantasy. I gave her a bit of a hard time about the typing issues in my review of the book (see here ) but I would like to say that I did geninuely enjoy this story and look forward to the next one. Please check out her works (links are below at the end of the post).

 

With that being said I now hand over to J.S for her post. Enjoy!

10 Things you Probably Didn't Know About Japan

 

When Dan Wright gave me the opportunity to do my debut author’s interview on his blog site, I was honored. It was one more step in the right direction toward my dream of becoming a successful novelist. One more step toward getting my name out there. I loved every minute of it.  So, naturally, when I found out about the opportunity to guest blog on Dan’s blog site, I jumped at it. There was only one problem… What to write about?

 

I thought about writing about my second novel AIRION: Light and Dawn. It is the sequel to AIRION: Return to Zire, my debut novel and the first in the Airion Series, which is available, now in e-book and paperback on various purchase sites. The first draft of the novel is finished, but, because I’m taking the Stephen King’s On Writing recommended one-month rest before editing the novel, I’m quite sure that the story will change a bit once I sink my claws into it again. Especially since the time taken to write Light and Dawn was only six months compared to the four years it took to write Return to Zire. So I’d like to see where the story truly ends up before going into details. If, however, anyone is just dying for information, I do welcome questions and comments to my email jscouncil@yahoo.com.

 

Now back to my problem. As those of you who read my author’s interview on Dan’s blog a while back might know, I currently live in Japan writing and teaching English to children and Adults ranging from ages 3 to 65.  It’s a great job and I love it. Although, if I really want to write for a living I might need to move to a country where people can actually read my work. When someone hears about my book, they always ask me, “Is it in Japanese?” When I say, “No, it’s in English,” I can just see the disappointment on their faces because they can’t read English well enough to comprehend an English novel.

 

But I decided, for this blog entry I would name 10 things people who have never been to Japan might found surprising or interesting. Or rather, things I was surprised or interested to discover when I got here.

 

1. Many stray cats – There are not many stray dogs in Japan. In fact, I don’t think, in the two combined years that I’ve lived here, I have ever seen a stray dog. But cats?! Now that’s a different story completely. Staying in hiding unless foraging or begging for food, cats get quite fat living outside of restaurants, schools, or homes.

 

2. Sorting of trash and the lack of public trashcans – It is very difficult to find public garbage cans in Japan and almost impossible to find one where you can just put all of your trash in one bin. You must (and they are very strict about this) sort your trash into plastic, burnable, pet bottles, plastic bottles (with caps off), glasses, and cans. And that’s just the general separation. This doesn’t include the separations you must make in your own home or the fact that there is a curtain day of the week that different things must be thrown away. For example, plastics (not bottles) are on Tuesdays and burnable items (not furniture) are on Mondays and Thursdays.

 

3. They have wildlife like bears, monkeys, and foxes – I am an animal lover at heart and I was very surprised and delighted to find out that there is still some wildlife in Japan. Although in relatively small population, animals such as bears, monkeys, foxes, and raccoon dogs (yes they are real) exist in various parts of Japanese’s bamboo forests in Hokkaido and the Main Land, country areas.

 

4. Anime is more popular in America than in Japan – This is something I found interesting. Anime and Manga like Rurouni Kenshin, Yu Yu Hakoshou, and Inuyasha are not as popular as you would think. One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, and Pokemon are very popular here as well as Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, but they aren’t nearly as crazy about anime as we are in the states in terms of conventions and things like that. You can buy many things with the popular anime characters on them though, Luffy and Chapper from One Piece being the top runners for that at the moment.

 

5. Smoking is very popular and the average life expectancy is still high for most Japanese – I was shock to find the amount of smokers in Japan. Although cigarettes are really expensive (averaging $5 or $6 a pack), one out of every 3 people smokes. Smoking is going down a little now but there is still a very high percentage, and the average life span is still about 85 or 90.

 

6. The worst crime a normal person will encounter is bike theft – Seriously, there is hardly any crime in Japan. No kidnappings, spousal abusive is low, child abduction and abuse is very low, and the only gang activity is buying loud motorbikes and riding them around town (being annoying). This may not apply in Tokyo or maybe Osaka, but for the rest of Japan, the only thing you really have to worry about is someone stealing your umbrella if you leave it unguarded or your bike if you leave it unlocked for too long.

 

7. It’s a surprisingly good place to write – I wrote much of my first novel and my entire second novel in Japan. This place is a very low stress environment and it is quite easy to develop a routine, which most writers need in order to get any writing done.

 

8. Cheap rent – Although bigger and more luxurious apartments in places like Tokyo and Osaka will cost you a pretty penny, medium studio or one bedroom apartments in small cities or towns can cost as low as $240 a month. Very nice considering the low taxes and the amount for pay one gets for teaching.

 

9. No central heating in houses or apt – No matter the apartment size or the luxuriousness of your home, there is NO central heating or air conditioning in places other then shopping areas. Even in school and some business buildings, there is no heating, so they must use floor heaters or fans depending on the weather. There is a heater/air conditioner on the wall close to the ceiling that regulates the room you are in, but if you have to go to the bathroom or the kitchen or anywhere other then that room, the temperature is drastically changed, especially during the winters, which can get very cold.

 

10. Getting good grades only matter in grade’s school – Just yesterday I was talking to one of my Japanese friends who is going into her forth year of college soon. She told me that she was looking for work for after college, she would know something before she graduated next year. I asked if the company were worried that she might not do well in her last year of school and she said that companies (those who just heir salary men and women) don’t really ask about the grades you get in college. They mostly just look at the college you went to. So basically, you could just barely pass college with any degree and still get a good job.  No wonder Japanese college kids drink so much, Haha.

 

Airion: Return To Zire is available from the following places:

 

PAPERBACK

 

Amazon UK

Amazon Japan

Barnes & Nobles

Borders online

Ailibris

 

EBOOK

 

Smashwords

Barnes&Nobles

 

Author Contact:

 

Website

Facebook

Twitter

 

Thanks to J.S again for such an amazing guest post. More to follow from other authors in the future.

 

Kindest

Pandragon

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Author Interview - J.S. Council

Todays interview is with J.S. Council, author of Airion - Return to Zire. The book is the first in a fantasy series set in an underwater world and set around two twins with incredible powers.

Whilst I generally don't interview authors whose books I haven't reviewed yet, J.S. Council was an absolute pleasure to interview. She's a down to earth and geninue person that's as keen on writing as much as I am and easy to interview. Therefore, I'm glad that I can give her a chance to talk about her work.

Without further ado, here is my interview with her.

 

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Jessika S. Council. I am a 25-year-old college graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a degree in Creative Writing – Fiction.  I was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina but I’ve lived in Durham, North Carolina with my mother and brother most of my life. I currently live, work, and write in Japan and will be here for a few years yet unless the current wave of events are drastically altered from their path in the near future.

2. Outside of writing, what would you say your favourite hobbies are?

I love all forms of art and creation, mostly due to my family’s influence growing up. I mother is a singer, songwriter, and vocal coach, my brother is a great artist, and many of my cousins are good dancers. If I’m not writing, I’m usually singing at karaoke with friends, working on my needlepoint project, or, these days, I can usually be found dancing with the local college dance team, NEXT. We practice twice a week and have various performances throughout the year. My section is Hip-Hop Jazz, but I like to explore all types of dance from hip-hop to belly dance and ballet to bollywood.

3. What made you want to get into writing?

Ironically, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until around my second year of college. My love for reading came a little later in life, in my teens. I was bullied as a young child, so I hated reading out loud, which, in turn, made me hate reading in general. I loathed it, really. I cried whenever my mother made me read. But, I realized much later in life, writing was something completely different. I have always enjoyed it. Throughout my schooling, it was the writing assignments that excited me. I would even ask the teacher for extra projects or research papers. There was just something about controlling the fate of the words on the page that intrigued me. With so many uncontrollable circumstances in life, I admit it still does.

4. Who would you say are your favourite authors and who inspires your writing the most?

When I finally, truly fell in love with reading, it was with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Since then, Rowling has been kind of a mentor and a rival for me, making me strive to be a better writer and make it as big as she has. But, of course, she isn’t the only one. Steven King, J. R. R. Tolkien of Lord of the Rings, Tamora Pierce of The Magic Circle and Circle Opens series, Tanith Lee of The Claidi Journals series, and Madeleine L'Engle of the A Wrinkle in Time series all have their special places in my heart and my work as well.

5. Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us a little about Airion – Return to Zire?

Airion – Return to Zire is set in a world beneath the surface of the ocean called Airion. The main protagonists, Kobi and Raili, are identical twin brothers born to royalty in Zire—a nation within Airion. As infants, the twins are sent to live their childhood on Land to protect them from Zire’s sister country and greatest enemy, Cella. Because of the severity of the situation, the boys are not told their true identities and they live as happy kids on Land. At fourteen years of age, every Airian’s body changes to adapt to ocean life, so the boys are scheduled to be informed of their heritage and returned to their home country, Zire, on their fourteenth birthday. But unknown to everyone, Zire’s old enemy, Cella, has made plans of it’s own that will take everyone by surprise.  

6. From what I read so far, I feel that it would almost work as a type of Manga/Comic book story with the stylistic description of the underwater people. Would you say your book could be adapted into a comic?

I get this question a lot from my readers and I think about it differently every time. The storyline of my book is a bit complex, especially with the coming novels. But, from what I see from Manga today, I don’t doubt that the world of Airion would thrive as a manga. I am an anime fan and I do read manga. It would be an honor, indeed, to have my work be a part of that community.  

7. What was your biggest inspiration for this novel?

Amazingly, it was a water leak in my dorm room’s floor that started the wheels turning for this book. My dorm had a carpeted floor and, in the corner, there was a wet spot that just kept getting bigger. Not too long after, as if by fate, I saw an episode of ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog’ about this water world you could get to by jumping into puddles of water. Airion was born from there.

8. What has the feedback been like for this book?

Surprisingly, I haven’t had much negative feedback about the novel itself—the storyline, the settings, the characters, etc. However, when I first self-published, there was an embarrassing array of typos still within the piece. I had spent over six months editing and changing things about the story and I had a few people read it for errors, but there were still mistakes. Fortunately, a few of my new writer friends in Japan took pity on me and ran over the book with a very critical eye.

9. If this book was ever made into a film, who would you choose to star in it?

Good  question. For sure, I would want Zoe Saldrana to play the part of the Zirian Queen, Kai Ventra and Dwayne Johnson could play the part of the Zirian King, Sai Thayne. Viggo Mortensen might be a good Captain Kaiyen Vorex and Sean Bean could make a good Sir Alick of Zire. William Moseley would be a great Trayn, Prince of Zire and the up and rising Jaden Smith could tackle the dual parts of Kobi and Raili. Taylor Lautner would be good to play the role of Trayn’s best friend Kloud and Orlando Bloom or Daniel Radcliff could take his first truly villainous role by playing Balin, Sub-Leader of Cella; Either one of them would work, really. I’d, also, like to see either Jada Pinkett Smith or Halle Berry play the role of Heal Warrior Kimi. But I fear the roles of the younger ladies in the piece would have to be completely new because, although I could think of people who might play the part very well, they are, alas, too old or too young for the parts of Winiki Kaio and Salina Vorex.

10. Are there any current trends in sci-fi fiction that you particularly like/hate?

Now that Harry Potter is over, I have yet to fall in love with another trend. I’m not too keen on the sparkling vampire trend right now though. I liked vampires when they had a bit more of a contrast in their strengths and weaknesses.  Although, I like how werewolves are starting to evolve. As for movies, I think the world created by James Cameron in the 2009 film Avatar was a step in the right direction.

11. What does the future hold for the Airion series?

The Airion series is going to be very exciting. If you liked the first one, book two will be even more nail biting. As of now, the series will be about four books long. I am in the process of writing the second book of the series. I’m hoping to release it in the later part of this year and continue producing a book a year until the series is complete.

12.    What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

•    Set a head goal, or a main focus, and then create ‘stepping stone’ goals to get to it. Remember, a book is created one chapter at a time.
•    Know your trade and read everything. I become the most motivated and creative in my writing when I read works accomplished by others.
•    Never doubt yourself and never give up because the ideas aren’t coming to you as fast as you would like. They’ll come, and when they do, it’ll blow your mind. Trust me.


Airion: Return To Zire is available:
Paperback
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Airion-Return-J-S-Council/dp/0983717907
Amazon Japan: http://www.amazon.co.jp/Airion-Return-J-S-Council/dp/0983717907
Barnes&Nobles: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/airion-mizuneko-creations/1103679370?ean=9780983717904&itm=3&usri=airion
Borders online: http://www.borders.com.au/book/airion-return-to-zire/24998596/
Ailibris: http://www.alibris.com/search/books/isbn/9780983717904
Ebook
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/70808
Barnes&Nobles: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/airion-j-s-council/1104008877?ean=2940011375484&itm=1&usri=airion%3a+return+to+zire
 
Author Contact:
Website: http://jscouncil.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JSCouncilauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/AirionSeries
 

Thanks to J.S for taking time out to speak to me on her novel. I'll have a review up for her very soon.

Next Wednesday I'll be interviewing Benjamin X. Wretlind, author of Castles - A Fictional Memoir of a Girl With Scissors.

 

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