Cephrael’s Hand by Melissa McPhail ~ review & competition

ch3Two weeks ago a kickass package arrived for me and I happily unwrapped it to find the gorgeousness that is Melissa McPhail’s latest book: Cephrael’s Hand. There’s nothing better than getting a book straight from the author herself and knowing that they took a little time out to thank you personally for offering to give it a read. The cover is beautiful, it comes with a lovely map (I love books that come with maps!) and I got a hand-written note and a great inscription inside my copy.

What a great start!

Unfortunately, because the book took so long to get to me (I live in South Africa) I will be honest and admit that I haven’t finished reading this book yet (it is long!) but I decided to post my current thoughts anyway (please don’t be mad!) because I promised to have this review up on this specific date so that it would coincide with the rest of the Cephrael’s Hand blog tour.


First, the blurb (as usual: stolen from Goodreads):

“All things are composed of patterns…” And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross: In Alorin three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor’s brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D’Lacourte’s mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he’ll have to find him. 

In the kingdom of Dannym the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord. 

In the Nadori desert tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them. Honor-bound to serve the First Lord in return for his life, Trell continues on his appointed path, yet each day unveils new and stranger secrets that eventually call into question everything he knows.

I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of work that must have gone in to this book. In fact, if I think about it, I get quite anxious – which I suppose is ridiculous, but there you have it! I can’t even begin to process what it must take to come up with all of the names, realms, types of people, etc that are in the pages of this book. Kudos for that alone, Melissa. You are definitely a rockstar. Continue reading

Shadow Swarm by D. Robert Pease ~ review & competition

shadowIt’s been a crazy hectic couple of weeks but I’ve somehow still managed to delve into a couple of review books. I must admit that it seems that whenever I commit to reviewing one of these books by a specific date, The Universe starts to giggle and then throws a whole bunch of things at me. I mention this only because it might do you well to take my slight “harriedness” into account.

First – the blurb (shamelessly stolen from Goodreads):

Aberthol Nauile doesn’t know that he once led legions in a war that had raged since the dawn of time, against an enemy that could not be killed. He doesn’t know that he rode on a dragon with his father, or that his mother died while giving birth to him. He doesn’t know that he once saved his great, great, great grandfather by defeating the black enemy on the slopes of a volcano.

Aberthol doesn’t know that he beheld the creation of the world, as his grandfather eight generations before took the planet, ravaged by a war of the gods, and began anew.

All he knows is that he awoke in a coffin deep within a tomb, and now the whole world thinks he is their savior. All he really wants to know is his name, and why he keeps hearing voices in his head.

From the very first page of this book I could detect a very strong Christian undertone, which I admit annoyed me a bit at first. Why I didn’t pick it up when I read the excerpt I don’t know, but I wasn’t expecting something Christian. Now I suppose there isn’t anything wrong with that, but I might not have chosen to review the book if I had known. Luckily it isn’t too “preachy” (kind of in the same way that the Narnia novels are kind of Christian but not preachy) and it’s actually quite interesting to see how it develops. From the beginning the story drags you forward in that you can’t help but be curious about what exactly is going on. This “pulling” happens throughout the book. From time to time the author employs flashbacks which kind of make you question your own sanity, but that’s kind of clever because it kind of ties in with the fact that those same flashbacks make Aberthol feel the same way.

Check out this awesome book trailer:

Personally I am not the biggest fantasy fan. I keep trying to be, and the synopses of fantasy books always sound fantastic to me, but I struggle to find a nice rhythm when reading most fantasy books. I struggle with the language, though admittedly the only “frilly” language in this book is found in the dialogue and not in the narrative so that was at least a bit better than what I usually experience. I also struggle to find common ground with the characters as they always seem to be motivated by things that I can’t quite wrap my head around. This is, however, my failing and not the failing of the author.

Even though this wasn’t 100% my cup of tea, I have to give it a 3 star rating because it is well-written, well thought out, and quite original. The only “gripe” I can think of to point out is that the setting itself might have been explained a little more. But honestly? The only reason I noticed that was most probably because I am TERRIBLE at writing settings so I tend to observe that a little more than could be considered normal.


About the Book – About the Author – Prizes!!!

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of Shadow Swarm! Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Shadow Swarm tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: Aberthol Nauile doesn’t know that he once led legions in a war that raged since the dawn of time, against an enemy that cannot be killed. He doesn’t know that he rode on a dragon with his father, and saw his mother die while giving birth to him. He doesn’t know that he once saved his great, great, great grandfather by defeating the black enemy on the slopes of a volcano. Aberthol doesn’t know that he beheld the creation of the world, as his grandfather eight generations before took the planet ravaged by a war of the gods and began anew. All he knows is that he awoke in a coffin in a tomb, and now the whole world thinks he is their savior. All he really wants to know is his name, and why he keeps hearing voices in his head.Get Shadow Swarm through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn’t been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer’s Sirens. It’s not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters he brings to life.

Connect with D. Robert on his website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads..


a Rafflecopter giveaway

One Often Overlooked Element of World-Building ~ A Guest Post & Cover Reveal by Melissa McPhail


Cephrael's Hand - NEW COVEREvery author should understand world-building. Whether engaged in the writing of genre or literary fiction, an author crafts a unique world with each novel. Even when set in the present day, the novel’s events layer a new dimension upon our visible reality. It’s the dimension of those characters, of that story, but it should feel as real to the reader as his own tangible environment.

One overlooked element in world-building is religion. Often when religion isn’t factoring into the plot of the story, the author may fail to mention it. Yet when we take a look at how religion influences our daily lives—even when we ourselves may practice no particular faith—it’s clear that religion of some nature is part and parcel to nearly every culture that inhabits this earth.

Religion influences our daily interactions with others (moral codes, traditions) and for many, it determines at least in part the way they spend their mornings, nights or weekends. It even influences the words we swear (or curse) by.  Continue reading

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Interview, Cover Reveal & Giveaway with Fantasy Author, Melissa McPhail

Cephrael's Hand - NEW COVER1. How important do you think cover art is to selling your books?

I think cover art is essential to book sales. A well-crafted cover will tell the reader in which genre the book is classified, represent in some way the story’s theme, and give an overall impression of the world. Fantasy book covers are vital to presenting a sense and feeling of the world. In many cases, the cover is the only visual representation a reader gets.

And of course, we all know that a book cover done well will catch a potential reader’s attention. It’s your best and sometimes only chance to make that memorable first impression.

2. For self-published and small house published authors, what do think is important to remember when deciding on the final cover for your work?

I stand firmly on the side advocating book covers that support the central themes of the story they contain. For literary fiction, you can get away with more creative (or minimalist) covers that don’t have much to do with the story itself but are artful and visually compelling.

But for fantasy and other genre fiction, covers should capture a particular feeling that’s prevalent in the story (loneliness, peril, mystery, love, longing…) and give the reader some sense of the world.

No matter your genre, ensure your cover communicates the things you need and want it to communicate, and don’t settle for anything less. The cover is your first communication to a potential reader. Make sure the communication you want is what gets across to them.   Continue reading

Three Must-Read Series for the Fantasy Connoisseur ~ A Guest Post & Cover Reveal by Melissa McPhail

Having been a fantasy reader for more years than any southern-bred lady should ever admit, I’ve encountered some excellent fantasy novels. Over the decades, I’ve watched many wonderful books rise to a height of popularity, enjoy the thrill of riding that wave of reader buzz, and then bob away to take their place on a shelf with others of like fame. With so many outstanding fantasies rising and ebbing across the years, it’s easy for newer readers to overlook some classics. Since I’ve been swimming this sea for a while, I thought I would share a few favorites you might’ve missed.

All of these novels have inspired my work in some important way.

Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber

“Amber is the one true realm, casting infinite shadows of itself.”  Only the royal family of Amber have the innate talent to navigate the shadow realms of Amber, of which Earth is one such shadow. At the beginning of Nine Princes in Amber, the first book in the series, Corwin wakes in a hospital with no memory of his identity. As he learns that he’s a prince of the royal family of Amber, so also is he pulled back into his brothers’ and sisters’ perpetual treacherous vies for their father’s abandoned throne.

Corwin moves from one near-catastrophe to another, each one often devised by a different family member, but his wit and his wry, cynical view make all of his misadventures—and indeed, this series as a whole—a joy to read.

The patterning described in my series is nothing like the pattern the royal family of Amber must walk in order to manipulate the shadow realms of Amber, yet Zelazny’s novels did provide a spark of inspiration for my own realm of Alorin, where “all things are formed of patterns.” Continue reading

My YA Bookshelf

This here is my YA bookshelf. It’s kind of too full and I’m not sure what I’m going to do CYMERA_20140801_143010about that once I find more books to put in it. I might have to get my husband to build me that bookshelf that he’s been thinking about for a while. Poor guy — I don’t deserve him (but I will cut you if you try to convince him of that, just fyi). Anyway, I think I should make August “YA Month” for me. I find YA great for when you are feeling a little “guilty pleasure”-ish. I’m sorry if that offends. It’s not meant to. YA doesn’t demand from you what reading Atwood or Irving does. YA (often) is simple and sweet and enjoyable…and easy. I like the easy. I have to gear myself up for Irving, as I do with many “grown up” books. The intensity can be magnificently satisfying but it is also emotionally taxing. For now I definitely need a few “easy reads” so I’m going to dip into this shelf for a while before I move on to the heavier things. Now…If you’ll excuse me I’m off to make some reading choices as well as find some earplugs and make a cup of tea…

Happy reading!!

How many posts can you write about going through a reading dry spell?

It seems I have inadvertently become a book buyer instead of a book reader these days. Once upon a time (when I was younger and my spending power was a little more compromised) I would buy books and read them immediately. And when I couldn’t buy books then I would re-read what I already had, or borrow a book from a friend, or take a trip to the library. Well, I haven’t been to the library in years now. Instead I have a massive library of my own. It’s beautiful. Looking at it makes me happy. And yet it seems that I am doing far less reading than I should be these days.

Why? Well….the internet probably. And, um….watching too much TV while playing Candy Crush-like games as a way to wind down at the end of the day. And…um….having a few “real” jobs which incorporate much reading-for-business instead of reading-for-pleasure.

Something’s gotta give.

I imagine the “something” is possibly me….

The Mockingjay Lives

Hmmmmm….. Speaking of movies that are more appealing than their books…. I’m kind of looking forward to Mockingjay coming out soon. Again, I wasn’t nutsy about the books (although admittedly they did not make me mourn for the state of the world as much as the Fifty Shades bunch did) but you cannot deny the awesomeness that is Jennifer Lawrence, so I’ll be standing by when this one hits the theatres.

Fifty Shades is coming… I mean…arriving?

So the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer is finally out (you’ve probably already seen it) and I must admit I was a little sorry to discover that Dakota Johnson is playing Ana. It’s no secret that the Anastasia Steele character irked me to my very core,  but I do very much adore Ms. Johnson. Strange that I did not pick up that she was playing Ana before (I really paid no attention) but now that I know that she will be in the movie I do wonder if I might not be more inclined to watch it, if not out of pure curiosity. The trailer already looks better than the book could ever have hoped to be, and we can only hope that it will deliver a less scewed (read: rapey and totally messed up) message. I guess we can only wait and see…