Warriors: Thunder And Shadow (A Vision Of Shadows 2) By Erin Hunter [Book Review]

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Book Review: Warriors Thunder and Shadow (A Vision of Shadows 2) by Erin Hunter | Book Blog | Fantasy | Fiction | YA | Middle Grade | Reading | RachelPoli.com

I got this as a Christmas gift.

Summary:

Nearly a moon has passed since Alderpaw returned from his journey to SkyClan’s gorge, where he found the territory taken over by rogues. Now the same vicious cats that drove out SkyClan have traced Alderpaw’s path back to the lake… and ShadowClan may be the next to fall.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comThe cover, as usual is very pretty. I really love the new designs and the cats look fairly realistic.

Plot | RachelPoli.comLike the title suggests, this book focuses on ThunderClan, as usual, and ShadowClan. The rogues that drove out SkyClan in the previous book have followed Alderpaw home and taken over ShadowClan as their own territory. All that’s left of ShadowClan is Rowanstar, Tawnypelt, and Tigerheart. All the other ShadowClan cats have remained in ShadowClan with the rogues for various reasons.

The stakes have truly raised in this book from the last. All the Clans are effected by these rogues, but ThunderClan and ShadowClan need to truly team up to defeat the threat – and this isn’t a typical team in this series. With that said, it was very well done.

Characters | RachelPoli.comAll the characters are confused in this one and trying to figure out who to trust and what to do. My only complaint about the characters is that Twigpaw and Violetpaw’s relationship is starting to get annoying. The two of them are confused and want to be together but are making very different choices. Yet, they each seem to think that whatever the other decides is because of them. It doesn’t make any sense and they bicker over nonsense because of it.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This particular book was very well written. Up until now we’ve always seen the books through the eyes of a ThunderClan cat. This book goes back and forth between ThunderClan and ShadowClan. We’re allowed to see how ShadowClan runs, their customs, and how they’re different and the same as ThunderClan. It’s made me want a separate Warriors series based in ShadowClan as well as one based in WindClan and one in RiverClan. I would truly love to see how the other Clans run.

Overall | RachelPoli.comThis was a pretty intense book but there was a lot of arguing and misunderstandings which got old quick. I think this book was a set up for what’s to come later. I really enjoyed the way it was written though and seeing through the eyes of another Clan was eye-opening and very cool.

Warriors: Thunder and Shadow (A Vision of Shadows 2) by Erin Hunter gets…
Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com4 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Shared knowledge is never wasted.” -Erin Hunter, Warriors: Thunder and Shadow (A Vision of Shadows 2)

Buy the book:

Amazon

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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How To Build A Fantasy World In Flash Fiction [Guest Post]

I’m happy to welcome Carin Marais back to my blog for another guest post! Thanks, Carin!

Guest Post: How To Build a Fantasy World in Flash Fiction by Carin Marais | Creative Writing | Guest Blogging | Short Story | Fantasy Writing | RachelPoli.com

When writing fantasy or sci-fi stories in a flash fiction it can be difficult to get the world in which the story takes place across because of the word limit. However, there are some steps that you can take that will make your worldbuilding in flash fiction not only work but also stand out.

Choosing a world to write in (a new world/a world you already know)

First of all, you need to decide whether you’ll be writing in the primary world (i.e. our world), or a secondary world. There is a bit of overlap – or grey area, if you want – between primary and secondary worlds. For instance, in “Scorched Earth”, I wrote a “straightforward” historical flash fiction piece, but added some paranormal aspects:

Johannes’ voice sounded in my ears as I turned to climb onto the wagon.

“Want Hij zal Zijn engelen vam u bevelen, dat sij u bewaren in al uw wegen.”

I looked around and spotted him standing some way off. Still dressed in simple clothes, he no longer held a Mauser in his hands. His chest was covered in dark blood and sand crusted his face. I wanted to wipe it away, to tell him it’s alright. I wanted to beat his chest and ask him how he could have left me. How he could let me go to the camps. How he dared recite the Bible to me.

I jumped when a young soldier touched my arm and I stepped back.

Jy sien ook?” he asked, the words barely recognisable. “You see them as well?” he repeated in English, his eyes pleading.

“See what?” I shrugged and climbed onto the wagon, sitting down next to Maria.

The young soldier folded his arms around him, eyes darting from ghost to ghost.” (“Scorched Earth” by Carin Marais, 2018)

Then there are those who are set in a world that is either completely alien to our own (Daily SF has published many stories that uses this wonderfully), or which are a complete secondary world, hinting at a larger world beyond the story:

They had always said that my blood wasn’t pure enough to work here, that the gods would take vengeance for having their holy objects exhibited for all to see. I rolled my eyes at them – but only behind their backs.

The priests added their voices to the surging crowds once money changed hands and their earlier blessing of the travelling exhibition was recanted. All objects were to be returned to the half-forgotten temples.” (“Red” by Carin Marais, 2018)

This also brings me to the first part of worldbuilding when you’re writing flash fiction – build only the part of the world that is necessary for the story.

Building only what is necessary

When you only have a thousand words to work with (give or take), you hardly have time to go into the intricacies of the economic system of the city where your story takes place.

However, if you need to show a disparity in income, for instance, you can mention hijacked buildings turned to slums or the beggars in the streets. Perhaps your character passes a soup kitchen line, or perhaps they drive past informal settlements that line the main roads out of the city. You don’t (necessarily) have to give up too many words for this kind of description if you use your words economically.

You also shouldn’t underestimate the intelligence your readers – you don’t have to spell everything out to them, but just leave enough breadcrumbs for the reader from which to gather the whole picture. You can always make a few notes about the world if you want to return to that world later, but just watch out for ending up with worldbuilder’s disease before you’ve even written the flash piece! This includes writing languages and cultures.

Other languages and cultures

(Fantasy) culture is a lot easier to portray in flash fiction, in my opinion, than other languages. However, using words in another language – or even languages – can be a powerful way to ground the story in a specific milieu.

For instance, I used three languages in “Scorched Earth”; English (the language the story is written in), Dutch (the language of the Bible quotations), and Afrikaans. The story is set during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) and, at that time, the Dutch Bible was still used by Afrikaans Christians. Each time, however, I noted that it was verses from the Bible that was being quoted and, in the context of the story, it wouldn’t be a huge problem if the reader didn’t understand the exact verse that was being quoted.

Johannes’ voice sounded in my ears as I turned to climb onto the wagon.

“Want Hij zal Zijn engelen vam u bevelen, dat sij u bewaren in al uw wegen.”

How he dared recite the Bible to me.” (“Scorched Earth by Carin Marais, 2018)

When it comes to using fantasy culture(s) in your fiction, there are some simple steps you can take to make it work.

If you’re just working from a vague idea in your mind, try some free writing to get a better grasp of what the culture is about and where it may have parallels to cultures in the primary world. If it does, and you need to do some research, now is the time. Talk to people of that culture, read up (for example articles by people of that culture) if the culture is on the other side of the world as you, etc. NaNoWriMo forums are especially good for this type of research.

Of course, if it’s a fantasy culture that you’re not actually basing on any real culture (much easier to do in a short piece than an actual novel!), you can basically do what you want and show that element that you want to highlight. For instance, this can be a part of their mythology and ritual as I did in “They Burn Your Birth-Tree” (2017) that I wrote for Paragraph Planet:

They burn your birth-tree with you when you die. Your ash would mix before being scattered by the ever-swirling-whispering-wailing wind. I always thought winter – that dark season – was the perfect time to die. My son was born with the first blossoms. I held the newborn at the newly planted birth-tree next to his mother’s stump. A bitter wind blew ashes from the pyre into the sunlit sky. You shouldn’t die in spring, I thought. “They Burn Your Birth-tree” by Carin Marais (2017)

While the fantasy culture may be foreign or strange to the reader, ways to make it understandable and relatable includes smart naming of the objects or rituals in the culture. So, for instance, I chose the English name “birth-tree” to denote an otherwise strange and alien idea instead of making up a word in another language. The reader immediately has some inkling of what I am referring to even though they have probably never heard of the word before.

You also don’t have to give more information about the use of the tree-burning than that which is in the final story, as the story only hinges on the reader understanding the implications of the mother’s tree having been cut down. The whole history of the tree-burning is therefore unnecessary clutter in the story even though you may have made worldbuilding notes about this. (More about it in the ‘editing’ part of this post.)

The magic system/technology

When writing a magic system or technology in flash fiction, it’s best to keep the magic “magical” and the technology “something that works” as you are really pressed for space.

Remember that it’s always important to focus on the story and what the story and characters need rather than focusing on that which goes on behind the scenes. Your readers are much more likely to enjoy one where the magic just works than one where the magic is being discussed for no apparent reason. Of course, if your whole story is about that, then go right ahead, but don’t feel the need to do it in every story.

The same goes for technology. In a tome of over 100K words, you’ll have more than enough space for explaining how certain technologies work. In 1 000 words, however, it’s unnecessary. All you have to really know that it works (or doesn’t work) and what the actual story is about. For instance:

I pick up the old delivery box and open it. Inside is my stinging, half-beating heart, its cogs and wheels and pipes all scattered. No wonder my chest ached so. I take a small screwdriver and go to work…” (“A Cup of Tea” by Carin Marais, 2018)

Don’t info-dump

All of the above basically boils down to one thing: don’t info-dump in the story. If your story ends up being 2 000 words, it’s more than likely that things can be edited down by half by either re-writing and deleting unnecessary details.

Here is an example of my first draft of the beginning of “They Burn Your Birth-tree” and what ended up in the published story:

“They burn you when you die in the winter, or so the old people always said. When the ground is frozen and the birth-trees bare, they would cut down your birth-tree and burn it with you.” (Draft 1)

Versus

“They burn your birth-tree with you when you die.” (Published story)

This took about 4 edits and I ended being a lot happier with the concise sentence of the final piece than the info-dump of the first draft when I was still finding my feet in the story.

  • Editing your flash piece

When you start to edit your story, first look at the number of words you need to cut – 100? 1 000? Once you know that, you know the minimum you need to trim from the story to turn it into a flash piece.

Start by deleting all unnecessary words. You’d be surprised how many you can use in such a limited space!

Next, go through all your descriptions. How can you tighten them or even rewrite them to make them punchier?

Usually by this time I find that I’d cut quite a large number of words already and may have already hit my target number of words! If not, I look at the story itself. Are there details that I can delete? Or perhaps whole characters that I can leave out without breaking down the story? Remember to spellcheck before posting or sending!

About Carin Marais

Carin Marais is a South African fantasy author and copywriter whose fiction and articles have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Jozi Flash (2016, 2017), Speculative Grammarian, Inkspraak and, most recently, Vrouekeur (June 2018). Her flash fiction collection Dim Mirrors (2016) was followed by Shards of Mirrors in 2018, shortly after the short story Forgotten (2018) was published on Kindle and Kobo. She is also a regular contributor to The Mighty.

Website & Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Shards of Mirrors By Carin MaraisShards of Mirrors is a free collection of 16 flash fiction pieces by Carin Marais. The stories are thematically linked, with the writer exploring loss, grief, forgetting, and remembering throughout the collection. Though not light-hearted, many of the stories are bittersweet and even hopeful. The genres range from steampunk (“Calling the Rain”), and horror (“The Call from Below”, “Red”), to sci-fi (“Shared Memories in High Definition”, “Petrichor”) and fantasy (“A Cup of Tea”, “A Fair Trade”).

DOWNLOAD SHARDS OF MIRRORS HERE.

Be sure to let Carin know what you thought of her post in the comments! Check out her links and show her some love. If you liked the post, please share it around.

If you’d like to write a guest post for my blog, then read the Guest Post Guidelines.

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Thomas Wildus And The Book Of Sorrows By J. M. Bergen [Book Review]

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Book Review: Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen | eARC | Middle Grade | Fantasy | Book Blogging | RachelPoli.com

I received an eARC from the author and his publicist.

Summary:

Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real.

Seven years have passed, and Thomas hasn’t forgotten. He hasn’t forgotten the blue of his dad’s eyes either, or the tickle of beard on his cheek as they hugged goodbye. Last moments with a parent are memorable, even if you don’t know that’s what you’re having at the time.

Now, with his 13th birthday rapidly approaching, Thomas’s search for magic is about to take a radical and unexpected turn. At an out-of-the-way shop filled with dusty leather books, a strange little man with gold-flecked eyes offers him an ancient text called The Book of Sorrows. The price is high and the rules are strict, but there’s no way Thomas can resist the chance to look inside.

With the mysterious book guiding the way, a strange new world is revealed – a world in which Thomas has a name and destiny far more extraordinary than he ever imagined. But time is short. Even as Thomas uncovers his secret family history, enemies emerge, threatening to end his rise to power and destroy everything he holds dear.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comI think the cover is gorgeous. I enjoy the swirl of dark colors and it really emphasizes the magic portion of the book.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.comI was approached by the author’s publicist. I enjoy middle grade novels and with it being about magic, I was more than happy to give it a try.

Plot | RachelPoli.comThomas Wildus is living his normal pre-teen life – going to school and hanging with his friends. He lives with his mother and his father has been dead for quite some time. Thomas then comes across a strange bookstore and is given the Book of Sorrows. Then the story begins.

This was the classic beginning of a fantasy world where the protagonist finds their powers on their 13th birthday. Except, he didn’t really find his powers accidentally.

Overall, it was pretty well done. The way Thomas finds out about everything seems a bit cliche to me, but it was done well enough for the story that sets it aside from other books that got about that trope the same way.

Characters | RachelPoli.comI enjoyed all the characters in this one. Thomas made a great protagonist and his friend Enrique was highly amusing. The two of them definitely acted like middle-grade kids, which was fun to read.

All the supporting characters – Huxley, Adelia, Professor Reiley, Thomas’s mom, etc. – were all great too. Each character had their own unique voice and each one had a purpose and seemed to have enough equal light in the spotlight.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This book is about 350 pages long. It can be a quick read, but for me, I had trouble getting through the beginning. I felt the pacing was slow to start and the story didn’t really start until 100-150 pages into the book. There was a lot of build up, which wasn’t necessarily not needed, but I felt it could have been done in a different way.

Then, when the action did start, I felt it went along pretty fast because, at that point, there was only half of the book left. Thomas and Enrique were training for about two weeks before they confronted Arius and, while they trained, Arius seemed to be finding and collecting crystals left and right. It was too fast for the stakes to get high and tension to build.

Other than pacing, the book was easy to read and well written overall. The story was interesting once the magic really began.

Overall | RachelPoli.comThomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is a pretty good read. I enjoyed the characters and the plot is definitely intriguing enough. The pacing was the biggest issue for me and because of that, I wasn’t able to get into the story as much as I would have liked. However, I’m still interested enough to read book two when that comes out.

Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen gets…
Book Review Rating System | 3 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com3 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“I’m just trying to keep you from embarrassing yourself. It’s not easy, you know.” -J.M. Bergen, Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows

Buy the book:

Amazon

About J.M. Bergen

J.M. Bergen | Author | Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows | Middle Grade, Fantasy | RachelPoli.comA long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

J.M. Bergen graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in creative writing and a minor in business. Over the years his writing has appeared in a variety of publications under a variety of pen names, and though his favorite stories are about magic and adventure, his best-known work to date has been non-fiction.

J.M.’s debut series originally started as a bedtime story for his oldest son. The story turned into a saga, and one book turned into five. The first book in the series, Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows, is scheduled for release in February 2019. The second, Thomas Wildus and The Wizard of Sumeria, will be published in late 2019, with the remainder of the series released before the end of 2021.

When J.M. isn’t working on the Thomas Wildus books, you can find him playing with his kids, splashing in the ocean, or dreaming up new adventures. If you ever meet him and can’t think of anything to talk about, you might ask about Herman the Shark, the Kai and Eli stories, or why Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip is his all-time favorite book. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll have questions and stories of your own (if you do, he’ll think that’s far more interesting).

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Is a book you think you’d like? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Warriors: The Last Hope (Omen Of The Stars 6) By Erin Hunter [Book Review]

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Book Review | Warriors: The Last Hope (Omen of the Stars 6) by Erin Hunter | Middle Grade | Fantasy | Fiction | Book Blogging | RachelPoli.com

I got the book as a gift for my birthday.

Summary:

The end of the stars draws near. Three must become four to battle the darkness that lasts forever…

After countless moons of treachery, Tigerstar’s Dark Forest apprentices are ready to lay siege upon the warrior Clans. As the Clan cats seek out their allies and enemies, Jayfeather, Lionblaze & Dovewing search desperately for the fourth cat who is prophesied to lead the Clans to victory – and who may be their only hope for survival.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comAs soon as I picked up this book, I knew exactly who the cat on the front cover was. And I cried. I had spoiled something for myself a while ago and, with the content of the Omen of the Stars books, I knew something was coming. The title alone says it all.

Plot | RachelPoli.comThis is the final book in the Omen of the Stars series. This particular series of Warriors has been my favorite so far because it had so many Harry Potter vibes. I’ve been with these characters since I was 11-years-old and this plot wrapped everything up so nicely and punched me right in the gut.

This would have been the perfect ending to the series as a whole. Of course, there are three series (at the time of writing this review) after this one. So, this book serves as an ending and new beginning.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This book, as I said earlier, punched me right in the gut. I don’t even know how to write this review because of spoilers… though, based on my blog audience, I’m not sure how many of you will actually go read these books. Still, I took out the character section due to spoilers because I don’t know what to say.

I cried throughout the majority of this book – that’s how good the writing is. I’m still crying even while writing this review.

Overall | RachelPoli.comThis was a wonderful ending to a new beginning. I’m glad the series is still going, but I would have been satisfied if this was the final book in the Warriors series. I’m looking forward to reading a brand new generation of Warriors.

Warriors: The Last Hope (Omen of the Stars 6) by Erin Hunter gets…
Book Review Rating System | 5 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com5 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“I would have taken your place if you had let me.” -Erin Hunter, Warriors: The Last Hope (Omen of the Stars 6)

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Warriors: The Forgotten Warrior (Omen Of The Stars 5) By Erin Hunter [Book Review]

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Book Revew: Warriors: The Forgotten Warrior | Omen of the Stars | Erin Hunter | Book Blogger | Blogging | Reading Books | RachelPoli.com

I got it as a gift for a birthday.

Summary:

With a divided StarClan driving a treacherous rift between the four warrior Clans, the spirits of the Dark Forest are gaining strength. Ivypool’s role as a spy becomes more dangerous with each passing day, and Dovewing is haunted by nightmares about the mountains.
Then an outsider appears in ThunderClan’s midst, spreading discord and pushing the Clans farther apart. As tensions mount and Clanmates turn against one another, the warrior cats will be forced to choose whose word they can trust–before it’s too late.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comThe book cover matches the rest of the series. It highlights a cat who’s important to the current book and series as a whole. I had guessed who the cat was on the front cover, even though that cat is no longer listed as one of the characters.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.comSince I knew who the “forgotten warrior” was, I was eager to get going on this fifth book. This cat hasn’t been seen for a while and I’ve missed her.

Plot | RachelPoli.comA lot of the plot in this book is highlighting what’s already happened before and how the cats are dealing with it. Then an outsider shows up to help and that throws some characters for a loop. Overall, this plot was a lot of build up for the next book, the final in the Omen of the Stars installment.

Characters | RachelPoli.comA lot of this book focused on the forgotten warrior. Again, it was great to see her again after so long, even though it was easy to guess she’d be coming back. Overall, all the characters are great – Dovewing, Lionblaze, and Jayfeather – and it’s weird to know their story is coming to an end.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

As always, this is an easy read. The book flows well and while this wasn’t as tense as the previous books in the series, it was still a page-turner.

Overall | RachelPoli.comI enjoyed this book as much as I have the others and I’m looking forward to seeing the ending of Omen of the Stars in the next book.

Warriors: The Forgotten Warrior (Omen of the Stars 5) by Erin Hunter gets…
Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com4 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Why do relationships have to be so complicated?” -Erin Hunter, Warriors: The Forgotten Warrior (Omen of the Stars 5)

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Warriors: Omen Of The Stars: Fading Echoes By Erin Hunter [Book Review]

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Book Review: Warriors: Fading Echoes | Omen of the stars book 2 | middle grade | fantasy | reading | book blogger | blogging | RachelPoli.com

I bought a hardcover of the book a long time ago.

Summary:


After the sharp-eyed Jay and the roaring Lion, peace will come on Dove’s gentle wing.

Three ThunderClan cats, Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Dovepaw, are prophesied to hold the power of the stars in their paws. Now they must work together to unravel the meaning behind the ancient words of the prophecy.

As Jayfeather tackles his new responsibilities as the Clan’s sole medicine cat and Lionblaze trains his apprentice in the ways of the warrior cats, Dovepaw hones her own unique ability and tries to use it for the good of ThunderClan. But the dark shadows that have preyed on the Clan for many moons still lurk just beyond the forest. Soon a mysterious visitor will walk in one cat’s dreams, whispering promises of greatness, with results that will change the future of ThunderClan in ways that no cat could have foreseen.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

As usual, the cover is simple. It showcases one cat that will be important to the story. Sometimes this is obvious to me which cat it is and other times it isn’t. Still, I like it.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

Warriors is a series that I’ve been reading as a kid. This is the second book in the Omen of the Stars series, which is the fourth series of the whole thing. A lot of stuff happened in the first book and the story is getting dark, so I was certainly eager to keep reading on.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Dovepaw continue to work together to understand their powers, learn about the prophecy, and figure out what they need to do next and where they need to go. They discover Ivypaw, Dovepaw’s sister, has been training in the Dark Forest (the book’s version of Hell).

They do their best to keep moving forward but that also means keeping secrets and sneaking around, which sometimes land them into even more trouble.

I enjoyed this plot and the back and forth between Dovepaw and Ivypaw. It hurt to see the two sisters fighting so much, especially when they’re usually joint at the hip. I definitely enjoyed the dark elements of the story and this series is beginning to give me Harry Potter feels.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

I’ve always loved the characters. I have a new appreciation for Jayfeather and his snarkiness. Sometimes he could seem like just a grump, but I sympathize with everything he has to do and go through. Yellowfang plays a big part as his “mentor” in a way from StarClan (the book’s version of Heaven). She has been a character I’ve certainly missed.

Lionblaze was certainly getting arrogant but I think Cinderheart, his crush, and Dovepaw did pretty well at trying to snap him out of that.

Overall, the characters are fun to revisit in each book.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This is a fast read. The book is around 300 pages, which is the typically length for these books. The chapters vary from seven pages long to 20 pages long, but each one goes fast.

Erin Hunter has a certain style of writing so that you just keep reading and going on. There are lulls here and there, but nothing too dull to get you to put down the book unless you have to.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This was another great book to the Warriors series and I can’t wait to continue reading Omen of the Stars.

Warriors: Omen of the Stars: Fading Echoes by Erin Hunter gets…
4 out of 5 cups

Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com

Favorite Quote:

“He never seemed to get tired. Always first up and ready to move on. Never afraid of what lay ahead.” -Erin Hunter, Warriors: Omens of the Stars: Fading Echoes

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Wishtree By Katherine Applegate [Book Review]

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Book Review: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate | Reading | Middle Grade | Fiction | Fantasy | Book Blogger | Book Reviewer | RachelPoli.com

I got the book from my mom, who borrowed it from her school’s library.

Summary:

Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comThe cover is very pretty. It’s simple and says a lot about what the book will be about.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.comMy mom had borrowed this from the library and once she was finished with it, she told myself and my sister that we needed to read it. So, I didn’t really get much of a choice, but I’m glad she gave it to me.

Plot | RachelPoli.comRed is a big oak tree as is the narrator of the story. He has a story to tell, a lot of them. However, as a tree it’s his job to shelter certain animals and people watch. This is the story of Red trying to understand his own place in the world as well as understand the world around him, especially humans. There’s a much deeper meaning to the plot that was well executed, but I won’t say much further due to spoilers.

Overall, this plot was very well done and has a special message that everyone can read and understand.

Characters | RachelPoli.comThe main character was Red the oak tree along with his critter friends which included opossums, skunks, and owls alike. His best friend was Bongo, a crow. It was a great cast bursting with many different personalities. They were all written in a unique voice that made the book comical as well.

The human characters were done simply, which worked well since we see them through Red’s eyes. However, we get just enough information.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This book is a super quick read. The words just flowed right along throughout the book. It captures your attention from start to finish between the plot and sub-plot as well as the voices of the characters. It was certainly interesting to read a book from the POV of a tree.

The chapters are mostly short being only two or three pages long and some of them were broken up with pictures to illustrate the characters and aid the plot along.

Overall | RachelPoli.comEvery part of this book was well done. It was easy and fun to read and even though the story is over, I’d love to hear more from Red.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate gets…
Book Review Rating System | 5 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com5 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“It is a great gift indeed to love who you are.” -Katherine Applegate, Wishtree

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Caught Dead Headed (Witch City Mystery 1) By Carol J. Perry [Book Review]

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

Book Review: Caught Dead Handed (Witch City Mystery 1) by Carol J. Perry | Mystery | Paranormal Fantasy | Fiction | RachelPoli.com

I received a free review paperback copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

She’s not a psychic–she just plays one on TV.

Most folks associate the city of Salem, Massachusetts with witches, but for Lee Barrett, it’s home. This October she’s returned to her hometown–where her beloved Aunt Ibby still lives–to interview for a job as a reporter at WICH-TV. But the only opening is for a call-in psychic to host the late night horror movies. It seems the previous host, Ariel Constellation, never saw her own murder coming.

Lee reluctantly takes the job, but when she starts seeing real events in the obsidian ball she’s using as a prop, she wonders if she might really have psychic abilities. To make things even spookier, it’s starting to look like Ariel may have been an actual practicing witch–especially when O’Ryan, the cat Lee and Aunt Ibby inherited from her, exhibits some strange powers of his own. With Halloween fast approaching, Lee must focus on unmasking a killer–or her career as a psychic may be very short lived. . .

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

The cover is dark and mysterious. It shows off a lot of what the book is about – the cat, for example – and even the title hints as well.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

If you know me then you know I love a good cozy murder mystery. I was asked by the author to read the series and gladly accepted.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

Like most cozy mysteries, Lee Barrett doesn’t have things going the way she wanted them to. She didn’t get the job she wanted. As she leaves her interview, she stumbles upon a dead body. On the plus side, the dead body was one of the workers so Lee ends up with a job in the end.

Things begin to get strange around the news station and, as Lee researches witchcraft and psychics for her job, she discovers some things about the people she works with and ends up investigating the murder case as well.

This adds a new twist on paranormal mysteries as Lee is pretending to be a psychic for her audience on her TV gig and find the true nature of her job as the people around her.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

All the characters were wonderfully written. I didn’t have a problem with any of them. They all had unique voices and personalities. Aunt Ibby, Lee’s aunt who she lives with, is an awesome character. She was very supportive and likable. I’m sure Aunt Ibby was my favorite character.

Every character has a purpose, though by the end of the book there were some characters who seemed to have disappeared. Scott Palmer, the man who got Lee’s job in the first place, had a lot of meaning the beginning and then just seemed to fall off the face of the earth by the end.

Oh, and O’Ryan the cat. He was truly my favorite, the MVP.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

I enjoyed the author’s writing style. There’s a good balance between dialogue and description, though more on the description end. The picture was painted well and the author had great knowledge of the setting of the book, Salem, MA.

The story flowed well and went at a nice pace with a good amount of tension and funny moments. It was an easy read and was a decent length at nearly 400 pages.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This was a great first installment for a mystery series. It was a fun mystery to figure out and, now that it’s finished, I’m remembering some clues that would have helped me figure it out sooner. It was well put together. I’m looking forward to the next book.

Caught Dead Handed (Witch City Mystery 1) by Carol J. Perry gets…
Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com4 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“She held up a well-manicured hand and began counting on cerise nail-polished fingers.” –Carol J. Perry, Caught Dead Handed (Witch City Mystery 1)

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Your Name (Books 1-3) By Makoto Shinkai And Ranmaru Kotone [Book Review]

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

Book Review: Your Name by Makoto Shinkai and Ranmaru Kotone | Manga | Fantasy | Romance | Reading | RachelPoli.com

I bought all three books at Barnes & Noble.

Summary:

Book 1: A story of two people determined to hold on to one another. Mitsuha, a high school girl from a town deep in the mountains, dreams of an unfamiliar life in Tokyo. Taki, a high school boy from Tokyo, dreams that he is a girl living in the mountains. As the two begin swapping lives, a miraculous story is set in motion.

Book 2: No longer being able to swap bodies, Taki desperately searches for any traces of Mitsuha.

Book 3: To save Mitsuha and all of Itomori from the comet Tiamat, Taki joins up with Saya-chin and Tesshi to evacuate the town. But Mitsuha’s father is stubborn and refuses to listen…

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

I find all the book covers to be absolutely gorgeous. The backs of the covers are super pretty with landscape art. The character designs are well done too.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

I came across the first book at the bookstore and the blurb intrigued me. I’ve always wanted to read more manga and graphic novels. The other two books were there as well, on sale, so I bought all three at once.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

Each book has its own plot, of course. The first book shows the two characters trying to get use to each other’s bodies and lives. They try to figure out why they’re swapping but they enjoy it, so they don’t really complain. In the second book, Taki searches for any traces of Mitsuha when they no longer swap bodies. He discovers something awful and then the third book they try to spot it.

The overall story is pretty clever and it’s a fun, sweet read. I enjoyed where the plot went and I was always surprised by something.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

All the characters were well written and interesting to read about. Of course, my favorite characters were Taki and Mitsuha. They were great protagonists to follow and read about. I also loved Mitsuha’s little sister. She had a sassy personality which was just great.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

Being a manga, a lot of the story is told through the pictures. The art style was great. Although, I’m not used to reading right to left so I think I messed up some of the pages and had to re-read them. But that’s just me.

Overall, it was an easy read and all three books were quick to get through.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

The story was engaging and the characters were great to get to know. I believe it’s just the three books and the ending was so wonderfully satisfying but I still want more.

Your Name by Makoto Shinkai and Ranmaru Kotone gets…
Book Review Rating System | 5 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com5 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“You’re weak, but you’re always so quick to fight.” –Makoto Shinkai, Your Name (Book 1)

Buy the book:

Amazon (Book 1) | Amazon (Book 2) | Amazon (Book 3)

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Victor (The Eden East 2) By Sacha Black

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

Book Review: Victor by Sacha Black | Young Adult | Fantasy | eARC | Reading | RachelPoli.com

I received a free eARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

When Eden East kills someone, she expects them to stay dead. It’s only polite, after all.

Exhausted from battle and finally bound to her soulmate, all Eden wants to do is attend university and spend time with Trey. When her demon-ex, Victor, suddenly returns from the afterlife, Eden’s convinced he’s out for revenge. The last thing she expects is for him to ask for help, especially when he’s being controlled by evil forces.

But when an enchanted lock and key go missing, she’s no longer sure who she can trust. If Eden can’t find them in time, not only will her life, and her heart, be torn apart, the very world she lives in could be destroyed – forever.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

This cover is gorgeous. I love how it stayed similar to the first book. The colors are pretty and subtle and the wolf is a nice touch to go along with the story.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

I read the first book in the series and enjoyed it so I was more than happy to read and help promote the second book.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

Eden is finally ready to settle down and move on with her life now that everything seems normal again. She and Trey, her soulmate, are finally bound, though not without “couple” problems here and there. Eden is still jealous of Eve, who Trey was bound to first, and Eden keeps having nightmares that may or may not be predicting the future.

A lot happened in this book. The plot began in the early chapters and it was page-turning the whole time. Everything was so fast tense with a mixture of emotions. It even ended on a tense moment which was very well done.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

Most of the characters are the same from the first book and they were all great to revisit. Eden and Trey are happy together though they have their own couple problems they’re trying to get past as well as Eden having her own problems.

I enjoyed the dynamic between all the characters, even when Victor came back and was communicating with Eden. Victor is a terrible person, but I still kind of like him. I’ve always enjoyed his personality despite how mean he is.

Then there’s Trey. If Eden didn’t have him, I’d call dibs.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This is a fast-paced story with a lot of ups and downs. I read the book in two days not wanting to put it down. When one problem was solved, something else was happening.

There’s a good mix of dialogue and description, everyone and everything easy to picture. There were plenty of romantic scenes which, I’ll admit, weren’t my favorite, because I don’t care too much for lovey-dovey scenes. There was a lot of action and mystery throughout though. It was well written.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This book certainly didn’t disappoint. I think it lived up to the hype from the first book. If you’re into fantasy and exploring a world not our own, give Victor a try.

Victor (The Eden East 2) by Sacha Black gets…
Book Review Rating System | 5 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com5 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“I guess when you finally get the thing you’ve wanted for so long, you realize how fragile happiness can be.” –Sacha black, Victor

VICTOR COMES OUT JULY 5, 2018. PREORDER THE BOOK NOW:

Amazon

Read my review of Keepers by Sacha Black here!

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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How To Create Your Own Fantasy Language [Guest Post]

It’s my pleasure to welcome Carin Marais to my blog!

Guest Post: How To Create Your Own Fantasy Language by Carin Marais | Blogging | Creative Writing | Fantasy | Fantasy Writing | RachelPoli.com

You’ve probably heard of Sindarin and Quenya even if you don’t know a word of either language. These two constructed languages which J.R.R. Tolkien created have, for many, become the benchmarks of languages used in fantasy and for science fiction, there is Klingon from the Star Trek universe.

Writing in a secondary world means creating not only peoples and cultures but also the world’s languages – or at least parts of the languages. The problem with creating these is where to actually start.

This is also the question I came to stand before when starting to write fantasy, and I hope some of these tips and resources will come in handy when you start to create your own language(s).

Take your time

You might not want to tinker with a language more than is absolutely necessary for the story or novel you are writing. Perhaps you only need a greeting, a blessing or a curse. However, if you’re planning on writing a series, you will need to have a much better grasp of the language you’ve created and build on the vocabulary as well. This takes time – you cannot build a whole language in a day.

Get some help, aka, resources are your friends

I came across some very helpful books (which also don’t cost the world, as most of the linguistics textbooks are quite if not extremely expensive to buy…) in my search for language building resources – The Conlanger Lexipedia and The Language Construction Kit, both by Mark Rosenfelder.

Quite a small crash course in linguistics, these volumes show you how languages of differing complexities can be created.

Bilingual dictionaries – especially, I find, of dead languages – are very good to have at your side when you are in need of vocabulary inspiration.

University departments often have available niche dictionaries that can either be searched or downloaded. Then there are also sites like Wulfila.be that goes into the minutia of the Gothic fragments still available to us.

Archive.org is also a fascinating site on which to find these kinds of dictionaries and they also often go for a steal in the Kindle store, just saying.

Listen to languages

Honestly, though. Listen to other languages being spoken even if you don’t understand them. (She says, living in a country with 11 official languages…)

If you’re living somewhere where mostly one language is spoken, go onto YouTube and listen to videos in other languages to get the feel of their sound, their rhythm, etc. You can then use some of these characteristics in your own language(s).

There may even be a language you love the sound of. Then all you do is incorporate those sounds into your language if you don’t want to or can’t use the actual language.

Start with what you need right now

Although you can start building your language by making lists and lists (and lists) of words, it’s important to keep in mind the type of words you’re actually going to use. For instance, if you’re writing a fantasy epic set somewhere in 400 BC, you probably won’t need a word for “spaceship” or “laptop”.

How I go about building languages

The way in which I build my languages is by first seeing what I will need to write or name in those languages. For instance, while building a chant for The Ruon Chronicles, I first wrote it in English and then translated it:

English: Show yourself, servant of the deepest Darkness. One who has turned from the path to follow the Betrayer, show yourself.

 

Fantasy language: Khalla sah s’elaras verdun nakhan han sah.

Agr elstanbrahta se tellaria na Lewjan nakhan han sah.

 

In this case, the word that actually needed the most work was “deepest”.

The word for deep/deepest was constructed ‘backwards’, working from the word for “valley” (elir), which was already in place. I decided that the word for deep would, therefore, be “elara”, which would mean that “elaras” would mean deepest.

Have fun

Most of all, remember that you’re supposed to have fun while creating the language. Choose sounds you like (cellar door, anyone), make the grammar as easy or difficult as you want, and let your imagination run wild. It’s your world, so you get to choose!

Resources:

Here are some resources that I use (or plan to use in the future…)

Websites:

Archive.org (Basically anything your heart desires)

Wulfila (Gothic)

Grammar, etc. of Afrikaans (I’m biased as it’s my mother tongue…), Dutch, and Frisian (written in English)

Septentrionalia

The University of Texas at Austin: Linguistics Research Centre

Books:

A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins

Advanced Language Construction by Mark Rosenfelder

Linguistics: A Very Short Introduction by P.H. Matthews

The Conlanger’s Lexipedia by Mark Rosenfelder

The Language Construction Kit by Mark Rosenfelder

About Carin Marais

Carin Marais | Author | How To Create Your Own Fantasy Language | Guest Post | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.comCarin Marais is a South African fantasy author whose fiction and articles have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Jozi Flash (2016, 2017), Dim Mirrors (2016), Speculative Grammarian, Inkspraak and, most recently, Vrouekeur. She is also a contributor to The Mighty.

Website/Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Patreon | Instagram

What are your thoughts on creating your own fantasy language? Let Carin know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around. Also, if you’d like to be a guest on my blog, check out my Guest Posting Guidelines!

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The Chronicles Of Crallick By Brad C. Baker [Book Review]

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

Book Review: The Chronicles of Crallick by Brad C. Baker | Fantasy | Reading | Book Blogging | RachelPoli.com

I received a free digital copy from the author’s publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

The Chronicles of Crallick, the first book in The Spirit of Amathrain series, tells the story of Crallick Oakentree, a man with a checkered past that finds himself widowed in a cruel jest of fate. As a result, Crallick becomes a failed farmer, a single father, and an alcoholic.

One day, after awaking from one of his many drunken stupors, Crallick finds his daughter has been kidnapped and his favourite drinking hole has been set ablaze.

Leaving the serene beauty of his home in Gladeholme, he travels across beautiful countryside and over a wide ocean full of danger, before tackling the seedy ports of a pirate-ridden archipelago. Still though, the kidnappers remain one step ahead of him and his accompanying friends. Crallick is intent on one thing: rescuing his daughter. Failing that, he wants to inflict his revenge upon those that do her harm.

But after ten years of drinking and aging, does he still have what it takes? Follow his Chronicles and find out.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

I think the cover is beautiful. It just screams fantasy, in my opinion. A person with a sword in the middle of a pretty forest. There’s definitely action and adventure and certainly fantasy elements.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

While I love Lord of the Rings, I don’t typically read this kind of fantasy. Or, I should say I don’t read fantasy often. But this novel sounded good so I decided to give it a try.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

The Chronicles of Crallick is just like another adventure fantasy. He goes through some troubles and is a drunk, but once his daughter is kidnapped, he puts on his armor once more and sets off to rescue her along with his friend, who’s daughter was also kidnapped.

They go through some trials and tribulations on their journey, which takes a whole year. I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize that much time had passed. I thought it was just a couple of months.

The plot was good, but as I said, it’s similar to most fantasy novels. The journey was great but it wasn’t as unique as I felt it could have been. It was enjoyable all the same though.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

All the characters were well done, I didn’t feel as though any of them really developed though. The journey took a year and I felt like they were the same people who began the journey. They hadn’t really changed or learned anything throughout.

Still, the characters were my favorite part. They were all distinct from one another, had unique personalities and voices, and I absolutely loved their names. Crallick, for example, just rolls off the tongue and sounds so good. There weren’t any names in here I had to stop and try to sound out. I just read through them normally.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This book is easy to read and it flows well. It’s written in the third person, past tense and it’s a page-turner. The story was pretty linear and I found it enjoyable to read.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

Overall, this was a good story. I think the timeline could have been done better and the plot could have been more unique, but it was still a great read with wonderful characters. It had tense moments, sad moments, and I chuckled a few times as well. If you enjoy fantasy or any sort of action and adventure, check this one out.

The Chronicles of Crallick by Brad C. Baker gets…
Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com4 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Doesn’t your goddess teach tranquility and peace? Why don’t you exercise it?” –Brad C. Baker, The Chronicles of Crallick

Buy the book:

Amazon

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around! You can also check out other Book Reviews I’ve done!

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How Much World Building Is Too Much? [World Building]

You can plan your novel through and through. But when you get the editing stage, you nit-pick every gritty detail and what happens? Most of it gets taken out.

So what do you do with all this extra information you have on your world building? How do you decide if it’s worth it for your readers to know?

Build What You Need | World Building | Fantasy | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Questions To Ask Yourself

1. Does this advance the plot?

If you throw in certain information about the world you’ve built or a certain location, ask yourself if it has anything to do with the plot. While it may be useful information, it may be something your reader doesn’t necessarily need to know.

2. Does this have to do with a character?

Is this place important to a character? Did something happen there in the past with a certain character? If it aids in the character development, then you could probably keep it in. Otherwise, it may not be needed.

3. Is this too specific?

Don’t hand all the information to your readers. Allow them to infer what the world is like for themselves. Allow them to explore the world through your general writing. If you lay it all out for them it may be too much information and seem like an info-dump.

Build As You Write

You don’t need to figure everything out all at once. You can have a general idea, sure, but for the most part, your writing and characters will help carry you along. If you’re not sure if something should go in your story, just keep writing. If it comes up, it comes up. If not, then you may need to keep that bit to yourself.

How do you decide when your world building is too much? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to chat! Also, if you enjoyed this post, please share it around.

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5 Tips To Name Your World [World Building]

Just like naming your characters, naming your world and the places inside it can be difficult. You should give it some thought, but you might be able to just write down whatever comes into your head first.

Naming Your World | World Building | Fantasy | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

1. Have names your readers will remember

Everyone knows Hogwarts. We all know Mt. Doom. They’re not fancy names. Hogwarts is out of this world while the word “Doom” is simple and common. Names don’t have to be simple but they should be memorable.

2. Avoid names that can’t be pronounced easily

Short names are good, long names are fun, a mixture of the two is great. However, when it comes to any name, you should be able to pronounce it easily. Even if your readers have to stop to sound it out, they should be able to make some sort of sense of it.

3. Take names from the things around you

Pay attention to the current world we live in. Graffiti is on the walls, names are in the credits of movies, you can easily take common names and turn it into something else. Some names you can probably use in your world as is. Not everything needs to be made up.

4. Play around with places that already exist

Scramble the letters in your hometown’s name. Spell it backward. Spell it backward and then scramble the letters around. The possibilities are endless.

5. Let names come to you

You don’t always have to sit and brainstorm name ideas. If your characters are going to a new town, you don’t have to know that town’s name right away. Refer to it as “Town A” and bold it so you can easily see it stick out when you’re editing later on. You can always think of a name later. A name may come to you when you least expect it.

How do you typically come up with names for your worlds and places? Let me know in the comments below!

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World Building Checklist

A lot comes with world building. There’s so much to think about. Will it all be needed? Maybe, maybe not. However, it’s best for you to know absolutely everything just in case something comes up.

World Building Checklist | Fantasy | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

World Building: Things To Think About

  • Type of world
  • Geography
  • Climate
  • History
  • Rules (of the world and magic, if magic exists)
  • Magic
  • Technology
  • People/Races
  • Religion
  • Food, habits, gestures
  • Language
  • Government
  • Laws
  • Education
  • Calendar
  • Clothing
  • Transportation
  • Creatures
  • Currency
  • Time
  • Housing
  • Leisure/Activities

What are some other things you would add to your world building? Let me know in the comments below!

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