Author Interview: Tiffany McDaniel


Today I’m delighted to introduce Tiffany McDaniel for an author interview.  Today is the release date for Tiffany’s debut novel, The Summer that Melted Everything, published through St. Martin’s Press.  Here’s the trailer for the novel:

Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your debut novel.

A: I’m an Ohio poet and novelist who wishes I could ride the back of Moby Dick across the great Atlantic, make a web with Charlotte, and shoot the breeze (but no mockingbirds) with Atticus Finch.

As for The Summer that Melted Everything, it’s a novel about a man named Fielding Bliss who is looking back on the Ohio summer of 1984 when his father put an invitation in the local newspaper, inviting the devil to town. The one come to answer the invitation is a boy in overalls and with bruises. This is the story of what this boy’s arrival brings, which is a heat-wave of the flames of the sun and of the flames of the community itself, burning, burning until everything does indeed melt and drip to lost between their fingers.

Q: What was your inspiration for The Summer That Melted Everything?

A: I always say what inspires me to write any of my novels is the characters themselves. The characters are real people to me. They inspire me to get their story right. To tell it as authentically as I can. To write the story they deserve and are owed in truth.

Q: Is your book based on personal experiences?

While the story itself is not based on personal experience, the landscape certainly is. The story takes place in the fictional town of Breathed, Ohio, which is a landscape very much reflective of my childhood summers and school-year weekends spent in southern Ohio, where the hills speak, the creek paces in its own good time, and the roads are dirt-laid and grass-lined. That wildflower song, front porch chatter, and southern twang has shaped me as a writer. Having spent my childhood summers down-home was like being one of the rolling hills, forever rooted in rust and dirt and moon-shine magic.

Q: When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?

A: I came from the womb hungry for story. Thirsting for its presence. Writing is my guide down the weedy, torn path. It is my bridge over raging water. My light through the dark forest. I’m lost without it. How could I ever want to be anything else?

Q: What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

A: I read all kind of books from literary fiction to murder mysteries. Non-fiction to poetry.

As long as the story makes me want to live and die with its first and last line, it’s a book I’ll enjoy. I will say some of my favorite authors are Ray Bradbury, Donna Tartt, Toni Morrison, Agatha Christie, Poet James Wright, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Markus Zusak. I’ll swing into infinity with their beautiful words.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A: Gardening. I want a greenhouse I can turn into a jungle and stalk like a jaguar. I love reading. I want to be buried with books and rise in the afterlife to a library of them. I also love film. I hope one day I’ll be fortunate enough to see my novels translated to the screen. Sometimes there’s nothing better than watching a movie in Saturday night pajamas and with a Saturday night bag of chips.

Q: Do you have a new book in the works?

A: I have eight novels completed. Currently I’m working on my ninth novel. The novel I hope to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, cross the Atlantic Ocean, and end up in my land of Ohio. While here they create their own camp of judgment. Being both the guards and the victims, they punish themselves not only for surviving, but for the sins they know they cannot help but commit.

Q: Do you have anything you would like to say to readers? And where can readers find you?

A: That without readers, there are no novelists to be had. Readers give meaning to an author’s words. So if you like a book, tell everyone you know. Be that book’s champion because if you do, you’re being a champion for the author herself. My only hope is that readers like what I’ve written. That they can count on me to deliver a story that is worth both their time and their hard-earned money. Nothing would make me happier than to know a reader has finished one of my books with the pleasure of having read it. That’s what I strive for as an author. To be someone’s favorite author as so many authors have been mine.

As far as where readers can find me, I’m not on social media, but they can jump on to my website at

Readers can also connect with me directly through my website. That connection to readers is very important to me. As I’ve said, they’re the ones who determine an author’s entire career. How can I not give them some of my time, when they’ve given me some of their time reading my book?

About the Book

summer that melted everything

Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

About the Author

An Ohio native, Tiffany McDaniel’s writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. She is also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and artist. The Summer that Melted Everything is her debut novel.   


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Author Interview: Kieth Merrill


Today I’m delighted to welcome to my blog Kieth Merrill, author of The Immortal Crown. I’m currently in the middle of reading it and am loving it thus far. If you haven’t already, be sure to enter my giveaway to win a copy!

Q— Tell us a bit about yourself.

OK, Brace yourself. 

I am a writer, director and producer of motion pictures, and more recently, the author of novels.

I was nominated for an Academy Award for my film, Amazon and won the Oscar for my film, THE GREAT AMERICAN COWBOY. I have created several feature films, television projects, include numerous landmark and award winning productions.

With the development of the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater and film project, I introduced a new concept that became known as “destination cinema”. The film, GRAND CANYON – THE HIDDEN SECRETS is currently listed as one of the 25 most successful independent films in history and the first film to be inducted into the IMAX Hall of Fame.  

My “destination film” projects are a unique combination of documentary and dramatic narrative, driven by story and spectacular as a result of authentic recreations of history on the giant screen. My IMAX docudramas include the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater at the South rim of the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls IMAX theater, Canada, IMAX at River Center, San Antonio, Texas featuring ALAMO – THE PRICE OF FREEDOM, a large screen dramatic recreation of the battle of The Alamo–and a large screen film POLYNESIAN ODYSSEY for Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii.  

My debut novel, Evolution of Thomas Hall, received solid reviews and good success. 

The Immortal Crown, Book I in the epic fantasy series, Saga of Kings hit books stores in May of this year. Book 2,Lord of Vengeance, is in editing.

I served in the US Army and I sat for several years as a member of the Board of Trustees of Southern Virginia University, and served as the past president of the Brigham Young University Alumni Association. I was honored with BYU’s Distinguished Alumni Award. I am active in church, community and family. 

My greatest success is my amazing marriage to my college sweetheart, Dagny Johnson of Piedmont, California. We have been married 52 years. We have 8 children and 37 Grandchildren.  I grew up on a farm, I’m a cowboy at heart and I love country music. Dagny and I live in the Sierra Foothills of California’s gold country.

Q — Tell us about your novel The Saga of Kings: The Immortal Crown. What was your inspiration for the novel?

As a writer and director of motion pictures, I’ve learned there are two ways to answer questions in an interview. 

One is the clever sound bite. 

The other is the always more complicated truth. 

Let’s skip the clever sound bite and tell the truth.

It started with the core of the idea itself. Not a story per se’ but a context. An archaic history, written sometime around 2200 BC with the classic elements of epic fiction. The fight between good and evil, the struggle for power, treachery, betrayals, battles, seduction and murder. The rise and fall of kings and  kingdoms, and in the midst of it — drum roll please — reference to mysterious stones that shined in the dark. The stories of such stones, the Pyrophilus, are legendary and found throughout the ancient history of the world and were reportedly possessed by  such legendary characters as Gilgamesh, such historical luminaries as Noah Solomon and Alexander the Great. 

But the shining stones of the archaic writings that were the spark of inspiration for The Immortal Crown were different and added a fascinating dimension to the legends of Pyrophilus. The stones in this story were made luminous by touch of the finger of God.

That single idea triggered my imagination and sent me in search of the story that took me to the Kingdom of Kandelaar. It was there I discovered the quest and conflict for the 13 shining stones — which as epic fantasy would have it — are endowed with the power of renewal, immortality and endless life.

Q — Who of the three main protagonists do you think readers will root for?

Readers will tend to root for the characters in whom they find a goodly portion of themselves, thus readers will root for different characters, but in the end, I believe most readers will feel the way I do — as expressed by the following Q&A.

Q — Who is your favorite?

I would have to say Qhuin is my favorite character, EXCEPT when I’m not with him. Curiously and I think many readers will feel the same way, I often find my affections shift and I favor the character I’m with or who suddenly does something brave and brilliant, even when he or she is not one of the three protagonists. 

I not only favor, but I love Meesha when she feeds the men abandoned by the prince. I love Tonguelessone when she has the courage to defy Drakkor. I love Nimra when he saves Erin Qhuin. I think readers are the same. I try to write every character so we favor and adore them when we are with them — or loathe them with a passion if they’re antagonists. 

Q — What books do you like to read? 

One has to acknowledge the chasm between fiction and non-fiction when citing “favorite books and authors”. 

My favorites tend to be the ones I am reading at the moment. I am always on the lookout for new authors and bounce back and forth from fiction to non-fiction with no particular pattern. A few of the classics deserve to be on the list of course, but it has been SO long since I curled up with J.R.R. Tolkien, James Fenimore Cooper or Charles Dickens I hope they’ll forgive me for leaving them off the list


There are a few books I keep close at hand.  

  • Story by Robert McKee
  • An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton
  • Against the Idols of the Age – The Essays of David Stove edited by Roger Kimball
  • Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock
  • As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
  • Scripture


Now I reveal my low brow enjoyment and escape into pulp fiction and confess I’m one of the readers who keep these guys on the New York Times Best Seller list for week after week.

I’ve listed authors rather than books because once I find one I like I buy all of their books and read everything they’ve written. My wife is a voracious reader also, she loves books and has collected a huge library of hardback fiction. One Click purchasing at Amazon is a blessing and a curse.

  • Lee Childs
  • Brad Thor
  • Vince Flynn
  • Daniel Silva
  • Dean Koontz
  • Clive Cussler
  • Robert McCammon
  • I’ve read Gone South, three times and want to make it into a movie.
  • Dan Brown
  • George R. R. Martin, A grateful nod of course for his 25 year masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire 
  • Oh and of course, The Evolution of Thomas Hall, a truly excellent novel which I have read many times.

On my reading list for the year ahead.

  • The Last Mile by David Baldacci – Currently reading
  • The Twelfth Imam by Joel Rosenberg – Currently reading
  • The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock
  • Playing to the Edge by Michael V. Hayden
  • Increase in Learning by David Bednar
  • The One Thing by Gary Keller

…and when I wander through Barnes and Noble those unknown treasures that are yet to be added.

Q — What do you like to do outside of writing?

Play tennis. Go to movies. Teach Sunday School. Speak to youth. Write in my personal journal. Read, read, read. Sketch. Shoot guns. Take photographs, and hang out with my grandkids. At the moment my big ‘outside adventure’ is building an outrageous tree house for my grandkids.

About the Book

immortal crownA thousand years ago, the Navigator possessed thirteen stones touched by Oum’ilah, the God of gods. Over time, these power-ful stones of light were scattered and a prophecy arose declaring that a “child of no man” would gather them again, and he would be given immortality and reign forever as god and king of Kandelaar.

Now, in an age of chaos, the time has come for the prophecy to be fulfilled. Light and darkness have each chosen a champion to claim the legendary stones: The sorceress of the cult of she-dragon has chosen Drakkor, a warrior and mercenary who travels with bandits and a corrupt stone of darkness.

The Oracle of Oum’ilah has placed his faith in Ashar, a young postulant who is unsure the stones of light even exist.

Meanwhile, miles away, a slave named Ereon Qhuin dreams of freedom. Abandoned at birth, his only possession is a strange stone that he believes is the key to his destiny and freedom.

A mercenary, a postulant, and a slave—which one is truly the child of prophecy? Who will wear the immortal crown?

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Summer Giveaway


Book Giveaway
Alrighty folks.  I’m going to be out of town for the majority of the next two weeks, and so I decided it’s the perfect time for a summer giveaway.  I’ve been collecting up some prizes courtesy of generous publishers/authors, and one lucky winner will receive some treats!  The prizes are:

  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children tote bag.  If you haven’t read the book, you totally should.  It’s weird and creepy and delightful, and is filled with some great vintage style photography.
  • The Harvesting by Melanie Karsak.  A novel about zombies.  See the description from Goodreads for more detail!
  • The Immortal Crown by Kieth Merrill. Three different people might be the chosen one from an ancient prophecy.  Who will it be?  For more detail, see the description from Goodreads.

Some ground rules–the giveaway will run through August 5.  US only, as I’m on a budget.  To enter, use the rafflecopter below.  Bonus points for sharing on social media!

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: “The Last Woman Standing” by Thelma Adams


I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour & Giveaway: “The Last Woman Standing” by Thelma AdamsThe Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams
Published: July 1st 2016 by Lake Union Publishing
Genres: Western, Historical Fiction
Pages: 290
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours
Buy on Amazon
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The Last Woman Standing is a western historical fiction novel about the gunfight at the OK Corral.  Josephine Marcus is a rebellious young woman who doesn’t want to settle down with a nice Jewish boy.  She’s lured to Tombstone, Arizona by the promise of Johnny Behan, a local sheriff. Josie arrives in Arizona naive and full of hopes, but quickly has to learn the ways of the world.  Johnny keeps promising her the world, but stops short of actually marrying her.  And Josie begins to develop feelings for Wyatt Earp, one of Johnny’s friends/rivals who symbolizes everything that Johnny is not.  But Tombstone itself is brimming with tension and resentment that’s about to boil over into violence, and Josie finds herself caught in the middle between her old and new loves.

As the book progresses, Josie really comes into her own.  At first, her primary goal is getting out of San Francisco and establishing a life for herself.  Once she gets to Tombstone, she encounters a world that’s totally different from her sheltered upbringing.  At first she trusts in Johnny, but then as she begins to see through him she manages to build her own life and friendships without him and finds a place in Tombstone by her own right.  Finding Wyatt was the icing on the cake.

The Last Woman Standing really made me appreciate modern life, and the variety of choices that modern women have and often take for granted.  After being with Johnny, Josie found herself in a predicament where she was no longer considered marriage material by proper society, and had limited options for supporting herself.  Josie began to realize that her only real social capital was her beauty and its leverage with men, and it was a hard realization for her to make.

Overall, I enjoyed The Last Woman Standing, and would definitely recommend it.  It’s filled with romance and adventure amidst a backdrop of possibility.


Many thanks to the publisher for allowing me to give away a copy of the book! To enter, please use the Rafflecopter below.  US/Canada only.  Good luck!

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“The Coelura” by Anne McCaffrey


“The Coelura” by Anne McCaffreyThe Coelura by Anne McCaffrey
Published: December 15th 1987 by Tor Fantasy
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
View on Goodreads

The Coelura by Anne McCaffrey is a novella-length space opera about fashion, contracts, and alien life forms.  It reminds me a little bit of the Kill La Kill anime, except pulpier and not quite as developed.

Contracts are very important in the world of Demeathorn.  Rather than marriage, people enter into short-term contracts in order to conceive heirs.  Caissa is the body heir to the Ambassador, which means she’s grown up to a life of privilege, but also that she owes it to her dad to arrange a beneficial contract when it’s time for her to bear her own heir.  When her father tries to convince her to settle for someone below her standards, Caissa rides off into the sunset on her speeder.  She hears a distress call and meets Murrell, a handsome young man who has connections to the Coelura, a sentient species that weaves/becomes super fashionable robes that respond to the wearer’s emotions, surroundings, etc.  Caissa realizes that the Coelura need to be protected from the schemes of people like her father, and so determines to do whatever is in her power to help.

I’ve been a huge Anne McCaffrey fan ever since I first discovered her in high school.  Her heroines are competent businesswomen, and I’ve always enjoyed how independent and assertive they are.  Caissa is no different, and continually does her own thing while spinning it to fulfill her filial obligations.  But even though I liked Caissa as a heroine, my overall thoughts on The Coelura were mixed.

Compared to McCaffrey’s other books, The Coelura meandered too much and didn’t feel like a cohesive story.  The ending in particular hinted at unexpected characteristics of the Coelura themselves, but in a rushed and dismissive kind of way.  Another 50 pages and an extra couple hours of editing could have done wonders for the story.

One the other hand, one of the really neat things about The Coelura was the art.  This was a really short book, and the only reason that it approaches 150 pages is that there were so many full-page illustrations interspersed throughout.  I love vintage pulpy SF/F artwork, so I was delighted to find so much of it.

Verdict:  Not McCaffrey’s best work by a long shot, but a fun pulpy romp nonetheless.

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“Rebellion” by Karen Sandler


“Rebellion” by Karen SandlerRebellion by Karen Sandler
Series: Tankborn #3
Published: 2014 by Tu Books
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Pages: 396
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
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Rebellion is the third book in the Tankborn trilogy, a YA dystopian series featuring diverse protagonists, cyborgs, and (you guessed it!) a rebellion.  Minor spoilers from the previous two books, but I’ll try to keep them as minimal as possible.

Kayla is a GEN, or genetically engineered human.  Devak is a highborn.  The two of them shouldn’t be in love, but they are, even as the world falls apart around them as GENS begin to fight for their rights.  The previous book ends with an explosion, and both point-of-view characters think that the other is dead.

Devak wakes up after healing in a GEN tank (think the bacta tank from Star Wars) to find that his social status has been demoted, and that his grandfather has sacrificed almost everything they own to heal him.  He learns of Kayla’s death, but doesn’t want to believe it.  When he discovers that she might be alive, he’ll do everything in his power to reunite with her–but now that he’s no longer a highborn, he has to learn how to navigate the world from a different perspective.

Meanwhile, Kayla has been kidnapped by her mother, who is one of the leaders of a terrorist/extremist group known as the FHE.  She’s pretty much a hostage, but soon begins to realize that the FHE wants her for a reason, and attempts to uncover their secrets.

The Tankborn trilogy is very similar in structure to the Hunger Games, and I saw a lot of similarities between Rebellion and Mockingjay.  But while I did enjoy the sociopolitical commentary, I found Rebellion a bit lacking, especially compared to the rest of the trilogy.  This is mostly because Kayla is an idiot.  She made a lot of stupid and avoidable mistakes that should have given her away, and yet she manages to plot against the FHE with almost total impunity.  I had a hard time believing she could lack so much discretion, especially for someone who has TWO BRAINS.  I mean, yes, she is a teenager, but c’mon.  She had way too much plot armor to be believable.

If it weren’t for my annoyance with Kayla, the book would have been much more enjoyable, especially because it has so many cool elements–cyborgs, commentary on social class and extremism, fighting on the backs of giant spiders in the desert, etc.

Overall verdict: Great idea, but mediocre execution.

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New Acquisitions: 7/4/2016


For all of my American readers, happy Independence Day!

New Acquisitions is a feature where I talk about books that I’ve received for review, purchased, borrowed, or sold my soul to obtain.  But in today’s case, both books are review copies from the publishers.  Images are from my Instagram, which I’m trying to use more regularly for bookish things.  Descriptions are from Goodreads.

Absalom’s Daughters by Suzanne Feldman

Many books have been written about the “great American road trip,” and Absalom’s Daughters is no different.  But in this case, the people involved in the road trip are not your usual suspects.  I’m very curious about this one!

A spellbinding debut about half sisters, one black and one white, on a 1950s road trip through the American South

Self-educated and brown-skinned, Cassie works full time in her grandmother’s laundry in rural Mississippi. Illiterate and white, Judith falls for “colored music” and dreams of life as a big city radio star. These teenaged girls are half-sisters. And when they catch wind of their wayward father’s inheritance coming down in Virginia, they hitch their hopes to a road trip together to claim what’s rightly theirs.

In an old junk car, with a frying pan, a ham, and a few dollars hidden in a shoe, they set off through the American Deep South of the 1950s, a bewitchingly beautiful landscape as well as one bedeviled by racial strife and violence. Suzanne Feldman’s Absalom’s Daughters combines the buddy movie, the coming-of-age tale, and a dash of magical realism to enthrall and move us with an unforgettable, illuminating novel.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

I read Jacqueline Woodson’s verse novel Brown Girl Dreaming a while back and adored it.  And when I heard that Jacqueline Woodson was releasing a new book, I couldn’t resist!

Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

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June 2016: A Month in Review


June 2016

During June, I’ve been attempting to step up my reading game to put me (closer to being) on track for my Goodreads goal of reading 65 books by the end of the year.  Even though I’m still 5ish books behind, I’m at least not falling further behind anymore.

This month I read and reviewed the following books:

During July, I’m probably going to focus on shorter books and/or novellas.  I’m going to be traveling a lot both for work and personally.  I’ll be in Boston, Chicago, and PA this month, and three trips is a lot of travel in not very much time.  So I’ll probably be reading more of what’s on my Kindle, as well as more things that I can finish in smaller amounts of time.  And of course, I’d really like to finish some of the books that I’m currently reading:

  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – on loan from a coworker, and I’m taking 5 ever to return it–that’s one more than 4 ever
  • The Immortal Crown by Keith Merrill – epic fantasy with lots of potential winners, but only one can be the prophesied
  • The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams – set in the wild west
  • Rebellion by Karen Sandler – book 3 in a trilogy, but it’s falling flat so far

What are you planning to read this month?

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New Acquisitions: 6/29/2016


New Acquisitions is a feature where I talk about books I’ve purchased, borrowed, or received for review.  These are some of the books that I’ve purchased over the past few weeks.  I’ve been frequenting quite a few used book stores these days!  And as usual, all descriptions are taken from Goodreads.

Some vintage pulps I bought over the weekend. #bookstagram

A photo posted by Grace Troxel (@bookwithoutpics) on

Conan the Adventurer by Robert E Howard

Introducing Conan – heroic fantasy’s mightiest adventurer from the wilds of Cimmeria

Thief, pirate, mercenary, warrior and general, he stands invincible – even when the full forces of the supernatural are unleashed against him.

Set in the imaginary Hyborian age between the sinking of Atlantis and the beginnings of recorded history, these four stories of the exploits of this larger-than-life hero are the ultimate in tales of swashbuckling adventure:

* The People of the Black Circle
* The Slithering Shadow
* The Pool of the Black One
* Drums of Tombalku

The Cosmic Rape by Theodore Sturgeon

From the stars, from the cosmos, it came…

the Medusa, the galactic man of war, the hive-minded creature that was a billion creatures. It dropped its wrinkled spore into one man on earth, through him expecting to conquer mankind… to absorb into itself the strangely separate and stubborn creatures that called themselves men…


Carmilla by J. Sheridan LaFanu

A classic Victorian vampire novella, which influenced Bram Stoker’s later treatment of the vampire mythos in Dracula.


Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

In the ancient Scottish ballad “Tam Lin”, headstrong Janet defies Tam Lin to walk in her own land of Carterhaugh . . . and then must battle the Queen of Faery for possession of her lover’s body and soul. In this version of “Tam Lin” Janet is a college student, “Carterhaugh” is Carter Hall at the university where her father teaches, and Tam Lin is a boy named Thomas Lane. The book is set against the backdrop of the early 1970s.


Faces Under Water by Tanith Lee

From the world-renowned fantasy author of The Secret Books of Paradys comes a chilling new fantasy series of alchemy and horror. In this new series, Tanith Lee weaves intricate plots around the elements of water, fire, earth, and air. The first in this new series, Faces Under Water immerses readers in the timeless beauty of Venice and the secret terror that lies beneath.

In the hedonistic atmosphere of an eighteenth-century Venice Carnival, gaiety turns deadly when Furian Furiano happens upon a mask of Apollo floating in the murky waters of the canals. The mask hides a sinister art, and Furian finds himself trapped in a bizarre tangle of love, obsession, and evil, stumbling upon a macabre society of murderers. The beautiful but elusive Eurydich holds the key to these murders and leads him further into a labyrinth of black magic and ancient alchemy. For all readers who fell in love with Lee’s Paradys series and for all those enchanted and terrified by the fantastical, Faces Under Water will be sure to thrill.

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“Black Butler Vol. 1” by Yana Toboso


“Black Butler Vol. 1” by Yana TobosoBlack Butler, Volume 01 by Yana Toboso, Tomo Kimura
Series: Black Butler #1
Published: 2010 by Yen Press
Genres: Graphic Novels, Fantasy
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
View on Goodreads

Black Butler by Yana Toboso is an alternate history fantasy manga set in Victorian England.  The orphaned Ciel Phantomhive is the heir to the Funton Toy empire.  He is attended by a butler named Sebastian with seemingly supernatural abilities to run the household, make delicious desserts, and kick bad guy butt–all before dinnertime.

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time, you’ll note that this is the first manga that you’ve seen me review, and only the second graphic novel.  It’s a type of writing/art that I’ve never really gotten into, but have been wanting to explore.  I decided that Black Butler is probably the best starting point for me, because I adored the anime version and am very curious about the source material.

Volume 1 is good, but is definitely mostly an infodump.  It introduces you to the characters and sets the scene, but it isn’t until the end of the book that we start getting into a glimpse of the Sebastian that I know and love.  And of course, seeing that glimpse is enough to make me want more, and I’m doing that whole “I should be saving money but I want to buy Vol. 2 but I have a bunch of books on my shelf” thing.  I know I’ll crack eventually.  I’m also excited that Season 3 of the anime is finally out, and trying to decide whether to wait for it to come to one of the streaming services that I already have or to cave and buy the DVD.

Volume 1 has four chapters, the first two of which have their own story arcs.  I like that a lot, as it’s easy to come up with good stopping points, even though graphic novels are quicker reads than books without any pictures.  (See what I did there? Ba dum bum.)  In the first chapter, we see a typical day on the Phantomhive estate.  We see the other servants, Finnian, Mey-rin, and Baldroy, cause domestic chaos right before an important visitor arrives.  The second chapter introduces us to Elizabeth, Ciel’s betrothed.  The third and forth chapters start getting more into the meat of the story as Ciel gets entangled with the Italian mafia and Sebastian comes to save the day.  This is also the point where we finally start seeing more of the homerotic undertones between Ciel and Sebastian.

At this point, the manga is very close to what happens in the anime, although I anticipate that the two will diverge from each other pretty quickly.

Since this is a manga, I should probably say something about the art style.  While I enjoyed it, I don’t have much to compare it with, so I’m not going to go super in-depth on that.  There were a couple places where the fonts were very small, but usually that was for sidenotes and things that weren’t super important to the main plot.  There are also a lot of pictures of desserts that Sebastian concocts, which made start digging around in my hoard of candy that I usually forget exists.  Dieters beware!

I enjoyed my first real manga experience, and am looking forward to reading more.  Does anyone have recommendations?

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