May 22, 2016

Book Review - A Call to Arms

I received A Call to Arms from the author in exchange for a review. When I saw her post about an lgbt+ fantasy book, I was certainly interested!

Here's the summary from Amazon:
Gibben Nemesio is in trouble.

His parents are dead, his sister is missing, and he's been left the sole provider for his two younger brothers. With a war brewing in the east and no guarantee of surviving another brutal winter, Gib's life is plagued by uncertainty. To make matters worse, he suddenly finds himself uprooted from his home and drafted into the army.

Forced to leave his siblings behind, Gib reports to Silver City, where he enrolls in the legendary Academy of Arden. An outsider and misfit, Gib struggles to blend in among the highborn city folk. His charming candor eventually wins him a handful of friends—an enigmatic mage trainee with a secret, a young girl who has defied tradition by joining the military, and a prince looking to escape his stifling life. But his new-found comrades may not be able to help when Gib alone overhears a traitorous plot—a scheme so horrible that if seen to fruition, all of Arden will suffer for it. It's up to Gib to convince the High Council of Arden to act, to stop the terrible danger, before it's too late.


I'm a little unsure of how to rate this book. On the one hand, the authors are incredibly talented. Their story flowed well,the writing style was fluid, and the dialogue sounded like real dialogue verses some authors who can't quite make their characters sound like people. The characters were interesting (although the antagonists were somewhat flat), the main character was likable and developed, and the love story was adorable. I finished this book in a very short time because I found myself engrossed in the plot and wanting to know what happens, especially towards the end when the plot was rolling along great. I definitely wasn't disappointed about this being a good lgbt+ read. And I'll say it again: the love story was adorable. Gib was adorable. I love it when the main character is that likable!

But there were a few things about the story that bugged me: namely, the characters' ages. I'm not sure why the authors decided to make them so young when this didn't really feel necessary for the plot and at one point it had me skeeved out to the point of being unsure if I wanted to continue the book. Spoiler time: namely when the characters go to a tavern and the main character is encouraged to sleep with a prostitute. He's thirteen. I get that a society might have adulthood be reached earlier, but this really rubbed me the wrong way. I also understand that it was a way for the character to realize he was gay, but that could have also been approached in a different way. I would have probably written this scene differently or else have aged the characters up a few years because it really didn't fit with the rest of the story, which read more like situations a young character would find themselves in. I know I'm biased when it comes to prostitution in fantasy stories because it's one of those "historically accurate" tropes that I hate, but combined with the youth of the character... yeah, this was my least favorite part of the story.

There were a few other "historically accurate" type of tropes, like how women were seen as fairly useless, but that one was actually written pretty well since the culture is working towards more equality. I don't mind misogyny in stories when it's something that the characters/culture is working to change. (When this isn't the case, I tend to drop the book rating by several stars.) Mostly, though, this story felt refreshing and new.

Overall, this was an enjoyable story and I would recommend it to someone looking for a good lgbt+ fantasy book. I'm not going to read the sequel, though, because the reviews say it's a series of bad things happening and since I strongly dislike books that are perpetual downers, I'm going to give that one a miss. If the authors pick up with a different series or something down the road, though, I wouldn't mind reading more of them! I'll give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

May 9, 2016

Relationship songs for the “Unexpected Inspiration” trilogy

Another writing playlist post! I’m still trying to sort out songs for my characters and the various relationships (romantic and not) in this series, but it’s such a convoluted web of how everyone is connected to everyone else. For now I’ll just go with romantic relationship songs. Even that gets kind of blurry! Anyway, some bands double up, but that works since they’re for the same relationship. I have info about my characters here, if you’re curious who these dorks are. Click the song titles below to hear them on Youtube.

First, my trio who eventually become a triad once they sort out their accidental soul link. Whoops.

Adair (to Blythe and Etri)
Hanson – "If Only"
I want to hear you say
It'll always be this way
We'll be hand in hand for every night and every day
I want to scream and shout
'Cause I'm losing any doubt
And all I care about is you and me and us and now

Blythe (to Adair and Etri)

Pat Benatar – "We Belong"
Maybe it's a sign of weakness when I don't know what to say
Maybe I just wouldn't know what to do with my strength anyway
Have we become a habit? Do we distort the facts?
Now there's no looking forward
Now there's no turning back

Etri (to Adair and Blythe)

Hanson – "For Your Love"
I know I was made to find you
Our fates were always intertwined
And you’re the dream I’d go to
Every time I close my eyes
Like the northern star you guide me
When I journey far from home
And now that I have you beside me
There is no way that I’ll let you go

And in book 1 I have Talan/Firedrake. They’d been a couple for a while, but it doesn’t end well. Or end the same species either of them started. Whoops again.
Firedrake (to Talan)
Enter the Haggis (Jubilee Riots) - Unsteady
The first time I saw you I was broken and bruised
You were holding up the bar and I had nothing to lose
It's all a little hazy now, tell me
When did we get so damn proud?
Made a few mistakes, but I made them with you
And every time we said that we were gonna pull through
Something feels different now and it’s not me

Speaking of not ending well, book 2 gives me Adair and his ex/"it’s complicated" Feren. "Complicated" doesn’t even begin to describe the mess that Feren makes of the plot of book 2.
Feren (to Adair)
The Fray – "Over My Head (Cable Car)"
And suddenly I become a part of your past
I'm becoming the part that don't last
I'm losing you, and it's effortless
Without a sound we lose sight of the ground
In the throw around
Never thought that you wanted to bring it down
I won't let it go down till we torch it ourselves
Adair (to Feren)
The Fray – "How to Save a Life"
Step one, you say we need to talk
He walks, you say sit down, it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left, and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

And there’s the mess that Firedrake and Sol become in books 2 and 3. Frankly, everything’s a mess all of the time for all of my characters. That’s comedy! Or maybe I just like writing characters who never have any control over the plot?
Sol (to Firedrake)
Neon Trees – "Sleeping with a Friend"
And why mess up a good thing, baby?
It’s a risk to even fall in love
So, when you give that look to me
I better look back carefully
‘Cause this is trouble, yeah this is trouble


May 8, 2016

Character songs for book 1 of the "Unexpected Inspiration" trilogy

Here’s the second part out of three (?) posts about my writing playlist. The first was the songs for each book and the next will probably be songs about the character relationships/friendships. This one is the songs I associate with each character, particularly in terms of book 1 (Colorweaver). I have a post here where I cast the characters as real people and gave some info about them in case you’re curious about who I'm talking about.

Click the song titles below to hear them on Youtube. :)

Adair (the optimistic, naive, cheerful artist/mage/cartographer)

Aloe Blacc – “Wake Me Up”
I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
I hope I get the chance to travel the world
But I don't have any plans
I wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life's a game made for everyone
And love is the prize
(I prefer this acoustic version to the dancy Avicii one)

Blythe (the somewhat gruff healer who likes to do her own thing)

Kelly Clarkson – "Miss Independent"
Miss independent
Miss self-sufficient
Miss keep your distance
Miss unafraid
Miss out of my way
Miss don't let a man interfere, no
Miss on her own
Miss almost grown
Miss never let a man help her off her throne

Firedrake (the morally ambiguous fire-dancer who isn’t above making life difficult for others) 

Default – “Live A Lie”
Still don't see much of me giving in
Much too strong to live outside of these sins
Feeling like I'm taken lightly
Think you see right through me
Words of those who still despise me
Think it's eating me
You're dreaming

Etri (the stoic introvert with shadow magic and social anxiety)

Matchbox 20 – "Unwell"
I'm talking to myself in public
Dodging glances on the train
And I know, I know they've all been talking about me
I can hear them whisper
And it makes me think there must be something wrong with me

Sol (the goofy fire-breather with light magic who is constantly speaking nonsensical things)

Earth, Wind & Fire – “Serpentine Fire”
When I see your face like the mornin sun you spark me to shine
Tell all the world, my need is fulfilled and that's a new design
As long as you're near, there is no fear of a victory
But when I'm away, influences stray my mind to disagree
(Not so sure about this one, but my husband seems to think it fits.)

Talan (the “antagonist” who hasn’t quite adjusted to being human, so the world is this big, wonderful, exciting place filled with new things to learn)

Hanson – “Blue Sky”
Everybody's looking for a blue sky
Searching for an answer on a satellite
I know that there's got to be a blue sky out there to see
A blue sky
‘Cause everywhere I go, it feels like I'm always searching for something
'Til I know for sure, I'll be right here waiting for something
More, more, for something more, for something more


May 7, 2016

Songs for the “Unexpected Inspiration” trilogy

I'm fiddling with my Spotify playlist for my series and really sitting down to listen to the lyrics is giving me lots of inspiration, particularly for the two later books where I'm not as sure of the plot. I’ll put some of the lyrics here and link to the songs on youtube in case you’re interested in hearing them. :) These are the songs I currently associate with each book; these aren’t relationship/character songs, but ones more directly related to the plot. Click the song titles to hear them on Youtube.

Book 1 (Colorweaver)

Angels and Airwaves – “Everything's Magic”
So hear this please
And watch as your heart speeds up endlessly
And look for the stars as the sun goes down
Each breath that you take has a thunderous sound
Everything, everything's magic
Just sit back and hold on, but hold on tight
Prepare for the best and the fastest ride
And reach out your hand, and I'll make you mine
Everything, everything's magic

Pat Benatar – “Invincible”
We can't afford to be innocent
Stand up and face the enemy
It's a do or die situation
We will be invincible
And with the power of conviction
There is no sacrifice
It's a do or die situation
We will be invincible

Book 2 (tentatively called Sentinel)

Hanson -- "You Can't Stop Us"
Soldier of fortune tried to shoot me down
Beating his chest only to hear the sound
Pumping his fist saying that our cause is dead
Go put your lies in somebody else’s head
You can’t stop us
You can’t stop us
You can’t stop us now

Miike Snow – “Animal”
In your eyes I see the eyes of somebody who could be strong
Tell me if I'm wrong
And now I'm pulling your disguise up
Are you free or are you tied up
I change shapes just to hide in this place but I'm still I'm still an animal
Nobody knows it but me when I slip
Yeah I slip, I'm still an animal

Book 3 (Iconoclasm)

Skillet – “Hero”
Who's gonna fight for the weak
Who's gonna make 'em believe
I've got a hero (I've got a hero)
Livin' in me
I'm gonna fight for what's right
Today I'm speaking my mind
And if it kills me tonight
(I will be ready to die)
A hero's not afraid to give his life
A hero's gonna save me just in time

Paramore – “Let the Flames Begin”
Somewhere weakness is our strength, and I'll die searching for it
I can't let myself regret, such selfishness
My pain and all the trouble caused, no matter how long
I believe that there's hope
Buried beneath it all and
Hiding beneath it all and
Growing beneath it all and
This is how we'll dance when
When they try to take us down
This is how we'll sing oh
This is how we'll stand when
When they burn our houses down
This is what we'll be, oh glory

Looking at these, I really can see how my series progresses. Book 1 has the characters dealing with a plot that mostly just involves themselves. Book 2 has them interacting with multiple other characters who are influencing the plot. Book 3 gets deeper with them dealing with a corrupted system of magic and corrupted government. I was afraid my stakes weren't getting raised enough between books, but looking at this, I think I'm okay!