Book Review: Heir of Ashes

Jina Bazzar’s debut fantasy novel Heir of Ashes reads at a pace that left me breathless. The action is non-stop, and if you enjoy a powerful female protagonist, you’ve found her in Roxanne Fosch. The book was just re-released by Creativia Publishing (congrats, Jina!) and I’m delighted to share my review.

But, of course, I had to learn a little more about Jina first. She was gracious enough to answer two questions. The first focused on her writing style and how she went about developing a plotline that’s so rip-roaring fast-paced and full of action! The second question was more personal. Jina is visually challenged, and I was curious about how that hampers her as a writer, as well as how it’s made her a better writer.

Here are her answers:

I’m a fan of anything fantasy. I also enjoy adventure/action-packed books. Add a little fairy magic and you get the perfect mix. So when I decided to give writing a try, it was no surprise I got the fantasy/action/fairy combination. I knew who my protagonist was, I knew she would be fighting for her freedom. I had the introduction, a vague notion of the middle, and the ending in mind. That’s as far as planning went.  

When I type, I let the story flow. Yes, I do lots of revisions but the pantser style feels somewhat gratifying.

As for my blindness, let me first say that being blind isn’t as hard as people believe it to be. Picture this: I see by touch, smell, sound (I don’t lick things, though I’ve been told I eat lunch while cooking). It’s a lot slower than just focusing your eyes at a point and sending that image to your brain. On the plus side, because I depend on my other senses to see, I’ve developed a sharper focus. I don’t have stronger hearing, I just pick up on the smallest nuances.

I can’t say being blind interferes with my writing, though I feel like I have an advantage other writers don’t: when I’m done typing, I turn on the automatic reader, lean back and listen to the flow. Most times, I can tell when the reader needs to take a breath – I add a comma here – or when the words jar, or when I need to add/delete something.

I do have a few peeves I believe I could manage if I could see:

Book formatting. No matter how many word tutorials I go through, I can’t get it right. Last year I thought I had it, but then a beta sent me an e-mail asking about the weird format.

Another peeve is the spell checker. If it doesn’t agree with my word choice, it highlights and suggests a similar sounding word. By and buy, cant and can’t, seize and cease, its and it’s… you get my point. Before I became aware of this evil plot, I’d correct and move on. But on the umpteenth revision, I realized some words sounded different, depending on where they fell in a sentence (remember, I pick up on small nuances).

And so I started checking some words letter by letter before correcting or not. That’s when I learned I had another foe: auto-correct.

And now, on to the review of Heir of Ashes.

If you’ve been looking for an electrifyingly fast-paced, paranormal book with a kick-ass female protagonist, this is it! Hold on to your seat and get ready for the ride. Never a dull moment and no mushy stuff in this book. She’s saving men more than they’re saving her.

Roxanne Fosch had preternatural abilities, but she doesn’t know the extent of her power and has only a sketchy idea of her past. Her adolescence was spent in a government research facility as a test subject, a place she escaped from a year before the book’s opening page.

Roxanne dreams of a normal life, and she wants to understand who and why she is, dreams and questions that will have to wait. The book is basically a chase as the morally corrupt researchers and their paramilitary goons try to recapture Roxanne. But the book is much more complex than that as other factions and interest groups help and hinder her. She has little trust for anyone, and the reader is left to question motives as well.

The story is told in 1st person from Roxanne’s point of view, and therefore the reader gets to experience some of the vulnerability that she rarely shows on the outside. She’s one tough cookie when baring her face to the world. This dichotomy makes her interesting and thoroughly believable. All of the characters are well-rounded and the dialog is natural and effortless.

A world full of preternatural beings is a given in this book with minimal backstory as to how this came to be, though Roxanne’s ancestral origins are eventually revealed. There are parallel worlds, werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, Celtic fae (called the fee), and other monsters. The range of powerful abilities covers a wide spectrum where some, like Roxanne’s, are yet to be fully defined.

Above all, the action is non-stop, and there were plenty of times when I had no idea how Bazzar was going to get her protagonist out of the mess she put her in. Not all of my questions were answered about Roxanne’s journey, the other characters, and the factions at play, but this is the first book in the series, and I could see the preparation for book two.

I highly recommend this book to readers of speculative fiction, and anyone who loves high-action, fast-paced stories, and powerful female protagonists.

**

Happy Reading!

A tangled mess of a tale – The Sorcerer’s Garden.

Sorcerer's Garden 2At some point between serving my visiting parents popcorn and ice cream, chauffeuring them to the nearest casino, shooing our resident bat from their bedroom, potty-training the Overlord, and tracking down my hiding husband, The Sorcerer’s Garden went live.  I almost missed it!

So a bit of promotion is in order…In the life of an author, it’s an exciting day.

The Blurb:

Recently fired and residing with her sweetly overbearing mother, Madlyn needs a job—bad. In a moment of desperation, she accepts a part-time position reading at the bedside of adventurer and amateur writer Cody Lofton. A near-drowning accident left the young man in a vegetative state, and his chances of recovery wane with each passing day.

Cody’s older brother, Dustin, and eccentric grandmother aren’t prepared to give up on the youngest son of Portland, Oregon’s royalty.

Dustin’s a personable guy, bordering on naïve, and overwhelmed by familial corporate duties and cutthroat partners. Grandmother Lillian’s a meddler with an eye for the esoteric, dabbling in Dustin’s life and dealing out wisdom like a card shark. One innocent conversation at a time, she sucks Madlyn into the Lofton story, dubbing her the princess and bestowing on her the responsibility of both grandsons’ destinies.

And all Madlyn wanted was a simple reading job.

Uninspired by her self-imposed stack of literary selections, Madlyn opts for Cody’s work-in-progress. Fantasy isn’t her favorite, but with only four chapters completed, reading The Sorcerer’s Garden should be no sweat, right?

Little does she realize, the story will begin writing itself and, by the hand of destiny, become her own.

A collision of urban and medieval fantasy 

The Urban:

Portland, Oregon

“You’ve started reading Cody’s book?” Lillian asked as she poured tea.

“Um…yes.” Madlyn glanced at the crystal ball. Either Tristan spied at the door, which she doubted, or the woman dabbled in the dark arts. “I thought he’d prefer it over my mother’s recommendation.”

“I’m not sure he minds either way.” Lillian shared a wistful smile. “Undeniably, the book is key to completing his story, but it’s your presence and voice that will preserve him as much as the content.”

Madlyn squirmed in her seat and sipped her coffee as the conversation wandered off into the ozone again. She understood Dustin’s caution and hope regarding Cody’s level of awareness, but this business about the book “completing his story” lay beyond her comprehension. For a woman who didn’t make mistakes, Lillian was three tines short of a fork.

“Well, fantasy isn’t really my thing.” Madlyn shrugged, hoping to move on. “But he only wrote a few chapters. I’m happy to read it to him.”

“What is your ‘thing,’ Madlyn?”

“Aside from reading material?” She met the old woman’s eyes. Why am I having this conversation? “I don’t know, Lillian. Maybe getting by, day by day, true love, a fabulous career, two angelic children, a self-cleaning house, a cat without fleas.”

“Ah,” Lillian chuckled, “fantasy after all.”

“Probably.” Madlyn sighed, the list depressing. “But I’ve learned that it’s a waste of time to wish for what isn’t real. I don’t believe in fairy tales. There aren’t any dragons or ogres. There isn’t a magical life waiting for me in your crystal ball. Terrible things happen to us, Lillian. Magic would be helpful, but it’s not any more real than Cody’s book.”

“How do you define what’s real?”

The question unanswerable, Madlyn said nothing. The temptation to scrub her face in her hands and groan was unbearable. She didn’t know. Science and matter? What she perceived with her senses? Could the experience of cool to her, be warm to another? What about feelings and intuition? Was the fear that her father abandoned her real because she felt it, even though, in fact, it may not be fact? Were her dreams and wishes real if she could name them or only when they came true? Was her mother a cracked nut and Lillian a fruitcake, simply because she believed they were?

“I have no idea,” she admitted, her brain numb. She sipped her coffee, reduced to the intelligence of a slug. “As far as I know, coffee is real. I’m not sure of much beyond that.”

“It’s all perception, Madlyn, yes? Layers and filters and veils shape the paradigms of our lives. Our beliefs create our reality; that’s where all possibility lies, where magic finds its spark.”

The Medieval:

amazingpict.com

image by amazingpict.com

A bat-webbed wing scraped over the boulders, hooks gouging the rough stone. A vast wave of fire engulfed the air. Cody curled into a ball behind the huge slab, buried his head in his arms, and held his breath, his body over the bow. When the inferno’s roar receded, he raised his head, caught a whiff of sizzled hair, and heard Dustin bellowing at the dragon, attempting to draw it away.

Every inch of his skin screamed as he scrambled to his feet, yanked the rope pull, and loaded his last bolt. With a laugh at the absurdity of his situation, he staggered out from between the boulders, slightly rear of the beast’s flank. No need to aim, he raised the bow and pulled the trigger. The bolt flew, dragging the second rope. Cody’s ankle tangled in the twisting coil. It flipped him from his feet to his back, his breath punched from his lungs.

The bolt’s barbed point nicked the dragon’s rear leg, skidded beneath the scale, and plunged into the tender belly up to its steel fletching. The beast roared, flung its horned head, and streamed fire toward the boulders where Cody would have stood if not for the tangled rope. His crossbow, pitched to the ground when he fell, flashed into blackened char.

There, the requisite promotion is done.

Click HERE for the fateful Amazon Link.

It’s lovely to be back. 

thankyou

Cover Reveal: The Sorcerer’s Garden

Sorcerer's Garden 2

Scheduled for Release August 20, 2015

Interested in a ARC copy? Please let me know ❤
Also available now as a Preorder on Amazon.

The Sorcerer’s Garden

Recently fired and residing with her sweetly overbearing mother, Madlyn needs a job—bad. In a moment of desperation, she accepts a part-time position reading at the bedside of adventurer and amateur writer Cody Lofton. A near-drowning accident left the young man in a vegetative state, and his chances of recovery wane with each passing day.

Cody’s older brother, Dustin, and eccentric grandmother aren’t prepared to give up on the youngest son of Portland, Oregon’s royalty.

Dustin’s a personable guy, bordering on naïve, and overwhelmed by familial corporate duties and cutthroat partners. Grandmother Lillian’s a meddler with an eye for the esoteric, dabbling in Dustin’s life and dealing out wisdom like a card shark. One innocent conversation at a time, she sucks Madlyn into the Lofton story, dubbing her the princess and bestowing on her the responsibility of both grandsons’ destinies.

And all Madlyn wanted was a simple reading job.

Uninspired by her self-imposed stack of literary selections, Madlyn opts for Cody’s work-in-progress. Fantasy isn’t her favorite, but with only four chapters completed, reading The Sorcerer’s Garden should be no sweat, right?

Little does she realize, the story will begin writing itself and, by the hand of destiny, become her own.

thankyou