Want (Want #1) by Cindy Pon

Want
By: Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?  – Goodreads

Want is a dystopian sci-fi novel set in a future where the oxygen is no longer good to breath. Viruses and pollution allow only for the most wealthy to be able to travel in suits that circulate good air for them to breathe while the majority who are poor need to live short lives and deal with the horrible environment that surrounds them. The story itself isn’t just a dystopian setting but there is a secondary plot involving the romance between the main characters of the story as they sit on different sides of the situation, a little Romeo and Juliet but a little less dramatic and a lot less tragic. The main plot being the one that does have much more resonance than the romantic angle which seems much more basic.

The story takes place in futuristic Taipei setting. The setting itself is the center of where the “evil” big corporation is located despite its international stance with the wonderful technology that its created for the rich and as it starts to expand to the normal everybody in order to achieve better living. However, the ploy does run a little deeper as the main character Jason Zhou and his friends starts to infiltrate into their operations as he dives into a growing friendship with Daiyu. The whole technology layout and the big Jin Corp building as well as the layout of the city between the rich and the poor area is well-described as well as the world/city setting is rather immersive to read. Its one of the bigger elements of the story especially in the big showdown when the big plan unfurls as it dives into the whole structure of this prominent building in the city.

Another element of this is the friendships between Jason Zhou and his friends. These characters are built really well. There are certain friendship connections and romances and a lot of them are fairly subtle until the big situations happen. All of the characters also have very distinguishing traits where gives them their own set of skills worthy of being a part of this group. The whole infiltration plans one by one also reveals a lot about each of the characters that Jason works with which makes them not dispensable. Of course, the focus is on Jason since he gets to be a character torn between knowing about the struggles of the poor and trying to go through this whole revolution/payback against the big evil corporation while at the same time, he has an undercover identity and gets closer to Daiyu who may be the daughter of the CEO of the corporation but also is a fairly upstanding character overall.

Overall, Want is a pretty decent dystopian sci-fi novel. While the romance sometimes seems to drag out a little, the most exciting part is the world building as it focuses on the Taipei setting but also the economic and social issues of the world. The focus on the technology is also pretty cool plus this future doesn’t feel completely a leap in imagination as the world we live in together struggle with potential causes of what could happen in the future.

Book Tour: Ekleipsis: The Abyss by Tamel Wino (Review)

Ekleipsis: The Abyss
By: Tamel Wino

Expected Publication Date: October 29th, 2021
Genre: Horror/Anthology

SYNOPSIS

Ékleipsis: The Abyss is the second short story collection by the award-winning author.

Tales of depravation and insanity are woven together with unrelenting style and depth, scrutinizing human nature’s degeneration when compromised by tragic, vicious circumstances.

These complex, wretched individuals and the irremediable conditions they are desperate to claw out of—or into—invoke the unfathomable question: What devastation are we truly capable of when left with no way out but down . . . into the obscurity of the abyss?

” It is at times appalling, strange and outright frightening, but Wino’s way with character development is outstanding. The display of artistic creativity and character creation really sets “Èkleipsis: The Abyss” apart in the field of short story collections.”
Reader Views

“The stories are well-packaged and generally have the feel of watching a syndicated crime drama. Fans of this form of entertainment will likely enjoy these well-crafted stories about everyday people whose lives are shattered by lunatics.”
The US Review of Books

“Wino’s writing is vivid, unsettling and filled with brilliant hints that contribute to the exhilaration of its pacing. Ékleipsis: The Abyss is a clever and creative horror offering worth checking out.”
―Independent Book Review

” Tamel really captured that essence of society and the dark side of people. Readers will appreciate the dark undertones of this horror anthology. Ekleipsis: the Abyss will surprise you more that you can imagine.”
―Literary Titan

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Available on Amazon

REVIEW

Ekleipsis: The Abyss navigates through six different stories of insanity and vulnerability as it goes through the horrors of human nature. The six stories all differ in the content and the skeletons that are hiding in each of their closets making them all relatively intriguing reads. As with most anthologies, there are always stories that stand out more than others. Looking quickly over them, they each do have their own sense of unsettling and sinister moments.

You can group the stories into two different styles. The first three stories having more resolved endings, while the second half consisting of the last three stories all have more a open-ended approach. Right off the bat, it starts off with “Marlene” which feels like a much more familiar tale of paranoia and delusion. Its one of the more normal unfolding of its premise but does show its craft and the writing that makes its a rather fun read and sets up a great tone for the rest of the stories to come. “No Place Like Home” takes a turn to dive into a warped family unit full of replacement, manipulation and suspense. Its one that does grab rather well but the ending does feel a little abrupt. However, the premise is rather solid. “En Prise” is where the strength of dialogue and tension truly builds the best as it lingers around two characters that are developed really well through their conversation. The conversation is an odd and dangerous one and yet, so intriguing as its almost like two people seeing whose bluff works the best and who is actually telling the truth and whether this tactic will work in the end. Its both a clever approach and very well-written.

The second half of the anthology kicks off with “All Day and A Night” which is a rather intense story as prison guards talk about their extreme schooling program to tame the new inmates to two people on a hunting trip when things during the trip take a turn for the worse when things get out of their control. In terms of story development, this one does take a more predictable path however, the whole descriptive element of very vivid right down to the ending. “Blue Devils” is a different type of story and probably in the whole group feels like it falls a little short. Its premise is rather similar, the description is done well and yet the characters also feel a little empty. It is still a dangerous situation and there is some intensity to it but it all feels fairly familiar that it loses its exciting element a little. The whole anthology ends with “The Descent” which dives the deep into human nature/psyche as the main character experiences this hero complex or adrenaline rush that changes his perspective of life and finally spirals into something much more insane. In some ways, this one does pack a lot of surprise especially in how it ends.

Ekleipsis: The Abyss is really quite an outstanding horror anthology. Human nature is a great premise for horror as a lot of other horror writers have proven before as its hard to grasp the extremities that the darkness and instability and insanity can take a person. There’s a good variety demonstrated in each of these stories which also dive into different settings and premises. It keeps the read very refreshing as it moves from one story to the next. Each has decently executed twists and while one or two felt like it had some little issues, the overall feeling was still a rather entertaining and intriguing read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tamel Wino is a Canadian fiction writer from the resplendent British Columbia whose works focus largely on degeneration of sanity and morality. He studied Health Sciences and Psychology, which only furthered his interest in human nature.

With inspirations including Alice Munro, Joe Hill, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood and Edgar Allan Poe; Tamel’s expositions are strongly grounded in traditions of dark fiction. Yet, with his bold narrative voice and incisive plot construction, Wino is paving a new movement within the space.

When he’s not reading or scribbling away on his laptop, Tamel loves listening to jazz, rewatching good ol’ classic shows and traveling.

Ekleipsis | Facebook | Instagram

GIVEAWAY

Giveaway: Signed copies of Ékleipsis and Ékleipsis: The Abyss
a Rafflecopter giveaway

BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

October 25th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight)
Liliyana Shadowlyn (Spotlight)
The Faerie Review (Review)
Latisha’s Low-Key Life (Spotlight)

October 26th

Rambling Mads (Review)
Phoebe’s Randoms (Spotlight)
Stine Writing (Spotlight)

October 27th

@tiny.bibliophile (Review)
@bookaholic__reviews (Review)
B is for Book Review (Spotlight)
Sophril Reads (Spotlight)
Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight)

October 28th

Tranquil Dreams (Review)
PoptheButterfly (Spotlight)
Sadie’s Spotlight (Spotlight)
I Smell Sheep (Spotlight)
Gryffindor Bookish Nerd (Review)

October 29th

@rosyreadz (Review)
Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)
@authormalmccartney (Review)
Haddie’s Haven (Spotlight)

Book Tour Organized by:

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Book Tour: The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice by Fred Yu

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice
(The Red Crest Series #1)

Expected Publication Date: October 5th, 2021
Genre: Asian Fantasy/Epic Fantasy

SYNOPSIS

He was born of prophecy. If he can’t embrace his destiny in time, his country is doomed.

Ancient China. Spoiled and overconfident, eighteen-year-old Mu Feng relishes life as the son of an honored general. But when his sister is abducted and his friends slaughtered, he flees home. He soon discovers the mystical birthmark on his body has attracted an enormous price on his head.

Pursued across the Middle Kingdom, Feng finds allies in two fierce warriors and a beautiful assassin. When he learns his ultimate enemy plans an incursion with advanced weaponry, he must call on his friends and his own budding military genius to defend his country. His plan is desperate, and the enemy outnumbers him twenty-five to one…

Can Feng fulfill a duty he didn’t know he had and unite the empire against a terrifying force?

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REVIEW

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice is an Asian epic fantasy novel set in Ancient China. Being Chinese, its actually the first English novel of this type that I’ve read. However, for those unfamiliar to the genre, its a great way to be introduced to a Chinese epic fantasy. It has a lot of elements and themes commonly seen in a lot of other Asian epic fantasies like the concept of sworn brothers or the war and politics or the world itself with its martial arts and the different techniques that might rule over the different sects. Its an expansive world and being the first novel, it does set up the characters and the world building pretty well. The story itself has a little bit of everything you’d imagine to see in sort of novel from fight sequences, secrets, betrayal and plotting and some romance as well.

Looking at the array of characters, much in the spirit of epics, there are a lot of characters that gets introduced. The core characters all having their fundamental part in the whole story as their characters get developed through the different conversations and their actions. If there was something to criticize here lightly would be that the main focus is on the main character Mu Feng who ends up having the most exposure as a character in this journey and also the most development. There is a well-constructed idea of the boy to man as he goes through his ordeals unlike the other characters which have more of a snippet of their backgrounds but feel a little more one dimensional. This isn’t a huge issue as the main character is the key element here as it is his journey. Hopefully in future novels, the other characters will have more detail added.

There’s a lot to like about The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice. For one, it did have its own view of the genre. It still feels fairly well-constructed and at this point, there are lots of classics who have thread this territory and a mountain of TV dramas that have also been released so to create this world is hard to be create something completely unique. Yet, it is still an engaging read throughout as Mu Feng is an interesting sort of character. What does stand out the most is the use of descriptions to make the action sequences and different ordeals that happen very vivid. Overall, as the starting point, this is a great take on an Asian epic fantasy.

Available on October 5th on Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a lifelong student of martial arts, and growing up watching martial arts flicks in the 80s and 90s, Yu decided early on that he would write in this genre. Inspired by George RR Martin’s work, he decided he would write a series in English in this centuries-old Asian genre. Yu has written three previous novels, The Legend of Snow Wolf, Haute Tea Cuisine and Yin Yang Blades. Yu has a BFA Film and Television from NYU Tisch School of Arts. He was born in Guangzhou, China, but presently lives in New York City.

GIVEAWAY

International Giveaway: Paperback copy of the book
Enter on Rafflecopter

BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

October 4th
Reads & Reels (Spotlight)
@swimming.in.books (Review)
@ofmoviesandbooks (Review)
MacroMicroCosm (Review)
Bunny’s Reviews (Review)

October 5th
@tiny.bibliophile (Review)
@jypsylynn (Review)
The Faerie Review (Review)
@dreaminginpages (Review)
B is for Book Review (Spotlight)

October 6th
@NerdyFoxReads (Review) 
Rambling Mads (Review)
PoptheButterfly (Spotlight)
Auto.Erraticism (Spotlight)

October 7th
Balancing Books & Beauties (Review)
@happily_undignified (Review) 
Lecari’s Live Journal (Review)
Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)
Bri’s Book Nook (Review)
Behind the Pages (Review) 
Tranquil Dreams (Review)

October 8th
@hoardingbooks.herdingcats (Review)
@acourtof_plants_and_books (Review)
@loveleighreading (Review)
Sophril Reads (Review) 
Stine Writing (Spotlight)
MacroMicroCosm (Podcast Interview)

Book Review: The Visitor by Terry Tyler

The Visitor
By: Terry Tyler

Genre: Mystery/Post-Apocalyptic

In 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and a hundred per cent lethal.

A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.

Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or someone from outside? As the body count rises, paranoia sets in; friend suspects friend, and everyone suspects the newcomers.

Most terrifying of all is that no one knows who’s next on the list… – Goodreads

Having read two books before by Terry Tyler, The Visitor continues on being able to showcase her ability to craft engaging murder mystery thrillers. The Visitor’s plot benefits from our current pandemic situation as it sets itself in the future after another pandemic has struck the world which is 100% lethal and much more brutal but sets it in a little village where another threat has hit them simultaneously in the form of a murderer which causes the fear to grow in its inhabitants. The backdrop is one that feels almost like it could happen in our current landscape with variants popping up in our current landscape, making it hit home a little more.

There’s a lot to love about The Visitor other than its familiar backdrop. One of them is a familiar form in Terry Tyler’s books which focuses around the point of view from a few of its core characters. In this one, its from the view of the few inhabitants living in the cottage and bunker who ends up there through some connection whether it is the leftover family and companions of friends that had gotten the invitation. As they gather in the bunker and keep it secret, they observe the people around them and get to know the different members of the village. As they each struggle with their own loss and current situation, they each have their own speculations. The benefit of jumping between characters is that it leaves some blind spots and blank spaces giving the unknown to spark. At the same time, who actually knows the depths of someone’s mind although the killer’s perspective usually does draw certain clues from one chapter to the next and slowly does give an idea of who is behind it by the end.

The Visitor also crafts really good characters. The group in the bunker themselves having their own differences and backgrounds and how they get there is one that definitely sets their own character as much as what they do after the settle into the village and each having their own pursuits and responsibilities. Two of them being best friends but also old flames, one of them being a survivalist (but also could be viewed as selfish), one dealing with her massive loss but navigating through being more of a loner: add in their own sort of purpose and personality that grows throughout the story as they get more involved into the village’s affairs and the villagers themselves, human nature is a tricky thing to say the very least.

The great part is how the focus of the novel smoothly shifts from its beginning of the big threat with this mystery virus which takes the front seat and determines their own means to survive and the desperation of the whole situation due to its lethal nature. However, subtly the story shifts to the murder and slowly the routine of surviving through this “post -apocalyptical” world becomes secondary as the murders become more frequent. It almost blends the two together so well that the story and character plot shift is done incredibly well.

Overall, The Visitor is a fantastic murder mystery. Not only does it have well-developed characters but it also builds a great post-apocalyptic world that is not only relatable in the current age but also pushes it further. Perhaps at times it feels a little bit too soon to be already diving into it but it also adds to the unsettling and uneasiness. Smooth plot transition and executed well, The Visitor is a well-paced and engaging thriller to dive into.

Wayward Kindred by Allison O’Toole

Wayward Kindred
By: Allison O’Toole

Monstrous families both spooky and sweet

They say that blood is thicker than water, but you may wish it weren’t, if your mom has to drink animal blood to survive. Home is where the heart is, even if your sister lives in another city–and is a shape-changing monster. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so how can you know who you’re supposed to be if your parents are a human and a vampire? – Goodreads

Following the previous anthology Wayward Sisters, this next Toronto Comics anthology is Wayward Kindred which expands to all kinds of creative stories stemming from kins. Much like its other anthologies, this one has probably the greatest diversity and variety in its stories bringing in different types of monsters and creatures, which without further research, stems from different country’s lores and such (mostly from memory from other things I have read or heard about). There are different art styles and different forms of execution for its stories.

Consisting of 17 stories in this graphic novel anthology with a diverse group of writers and illustrationists, there’s a lot to love and probably the anthology so far that has a lot of stories that stand out in comparison to previous anthologies released. With that said, while I won’t be reviewing all the stories in the anthology, here’s a quick rundown of the ones that stood out to me and a little capsule review in no particular order.

Long-Distance Sisters: This story circles around an older sister that only finds the courage to tell her younger sister about her differences. The younger sister promises to be there for here and in the end, as the older sister has to go away and their communication becomes less, the siblings love is still there. This one shines absolutely from the poignant story that it tells between these two sisters and just through simple words and illustrations, the connection between the two exceeds their differences or distance.

The Egret Widow: Beautiful illustrations pair this story where an aunt recounts the story of her past to her niece while taking her Egret form to fight the serpents to protect the land. Whether its the illustration or the story itself, there’s a lot to love about it. Almost reminds me of the Fantasy Chinese Dramas where it involves people taking forms of other beings as their spirit.

The God of Roadside Memorials: A lovely art style shows off this story about mourning the death of a loved one from a roadside accident as the god takes them away. This story has no dialogue and just its illustrations that tell the story from one panel to the next.

Grain Mother: While I’m not exactly sure what the story is for this one, it rides a parallel between a story shown at the bottom of the page in a blue strip of comic panels and the more dark camp setting on the top. It looks like some kind of lost children or something but while I can’t quite piece the two together as the blue portion doesn’t really have any dialogue, the kids and the interaction at the top definitely shows something a little more and was pretty enjoyable to read overall. Plus, I think the whole parallel story is pretty unique.

Black, White, And Walks With The Night: As a vampire halfling approaches her sixteen year old birthday, her family holds a party that invites her prep school friends, her home friends and her vampire family. As she fears putting the two separate parts of life together and how they wouldn’t get along, she also needs to think about whether she has the vampire element in her that should awaken on her sixteenth birthday but she soon realizes that both parts make up her as a person and a vampire. The art style here is really nice and the colors are very vibrant. Plus, the story takes a fun and positive angle.

That’s something like the Top 5 of this anthology for Wayward Kindred. To be fair, I swapped stuff around quite a bit to get that list since every story has its own merit and most of them were pretty fun and unique. Some had some oddity to it but the whole execution with how the comic is shown is pretty unique like From The Ground Up. Demons from the New Dimension and Cursed Uncle Teoscar is more comedic and light-hearted overall. Then there’s a cute friendship from Words between a creature and a little kid. Last one to mention which almost is like a different type of belief in creatures and spirits (maybe?) is Common Grounds and Various Teas which was pretty cool also.

The point is that there’s a lot to discover with this anthology. While most anthologies will have better and worse stories, this one overall was ranging from good to awesome, nothing that really felt off or didn’t seem to work or anything, which is always great.

Other graphic novels reviewed from Toronto Comics:

Yonge At Heart (Toronto Comics #4)
Osgoode as Gold (Toronto Comics #5)

Lost Girls and Love Hotels by Catherine Hanrahan

Lost Girls and Love Hotels
By: Catherine Hanrahan

Margaret is doing everything in her power to forget home. And Tokyo’s exotic nightlife—teeming with drink, drugs, and three-hour love hotels—enables her to keep her demons at bay. Working as an English specialist at Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute by day, and losing herself in a sex- and drug-addled oblivion by night, Margaret represses memories of her painful childhood in Canada and her older brother Frank’s descent into madness. But Margaret’s deliberate nihilism is thrown off balance as she becomes increasingly haunted by images of a Western girl missing in Tokyo. And when she becomes enamored of Kazu, a mysterious gangster, their affair sparks a chain of events that could spell tragedy for Margaret in a city where it’s all too easy to disappear. – Goodreads

Lost Girls and Love Hotels has a decent premise that explores Japan’s culture and nightlife. At the same time, the book is primarily about Margaret’s journey into this city. Moving between her present and her past, it pulls together the pieces of why she decided to go to Japan to be alone and the reason to escape her life. The novel is a fairly quick read (finished it in 2 days). It mostly has to do with the fact that everything is fairly concise and moves quickly from one event to the next. It moves through Margaret’s past quickly as well, jumping through her past in something like 2 year age progression and using one significant event between her and her brother Frank to portray their sibling and/or family relationship. Drawing a parallel with this is her present to be in Japan to be alone, a concept which outlines how “being alone isn’t about people” (I’m paraphrasing at best, I can’t remember the exact line). An interesting angle for sure as it does focus on Margaret’s trek through how she deals with her loneliness and how she fills up her own void through her nights with strangers at love hotels and her days at her uptight job that she doesn’t seem to take very seriously for the most part.

There are a few elements that is explored in the novel as a whole and everything does get touched on lightly. Which does progress the story quickly but at the same time, some of these elements feels like it could have benefited from having some more depth. Especially in terms of characters, it lacks in building up Margaret outside of the pieces of her past or constructing her decisions. Probably because it strays away from going too in-depth into any scene construction and simply leaving the space for the reader’s imagination. Its not a bad route at times but other times, it can feel a little empty. Much like Margaret, the people she meets and the emotional connection she has with them are also fairly shallow as well. Unlike the synopsis of the dangerous yakuza she meets Kazu, this relationship isn’t nearly as fleshed as it could be. Not in terms of the sexual elements but simply the connection that she has with him. At least not enough to support the extent that she goes and the “suffering” she ends up going through because of this.

Despite the shortcomings though, the setting itself and the pace of moving through the different scenes and the love hotel settings plus the nightlife all does feel very intriguing. The shortcoming from the character development is compensated by the overall structure of the novel which helps in being intrigued by how Margaret grew up and seeing what the deal with her brother is while moving in parallel with her life in Japan. The setting of Japan is portrayed fairly well while it intertwines the missing girl tangent that might not have been explored enough but still manages to bring in the thriller element as it becomes a question of whether she is missing and if so, whether the dangerous life she leads might take her down to some unfortunate endgame.

Goodreads score: 3/5 (its probably more of a 3.5)

In comparison to the film adaptation (you can check out the review HERE), Catherine Hanrahan also writes the screenplay however surprisingly, a lot of the events of the book right down to the characters and how certain elements are panned out are fairly jumbled together. There are pros and cons to either where some elements are done better in the book since it dives in Margaret’s past which the film doesn’t do and outlines her motives of being in Japan more while in terms of Kazu, the film does a better job of giving them a strong romantic connection but still not bringing in some of the elements of Kazu’s personal life that gets intertwined with Margaret which would endanger her. The film does also fall short when it comes to the missing girl plot point. Like I said, a lot of the film is the basic scenario and structure that stays the same but a lot of the events are executed differently which works in one way and doesn’t in some other way.

Blog Tour: The Littlest Dinosaur by Bryce Raffle & Steven Kothlow (Review/Giveaway)

Welcome to the tour for the most adorable story, The Littlest Dinosaur by Bryce Raffle and Steven Kothlow, illustrated by Tessa Verplancke! We also have a fantastic giveaway — Digital Prize Packs which include the ebook copy of the book, two desktop wallpapers for the computer, two cell phone backdrops, plus three printable activity pages including colouring two book pages and a maze.

The Littlest Dinosaur
By: Bryce Raffle & Steven Kothlow
Illustrated by: Tessa Verplancke

Publication Date: November 2nd, 2020
Genre: Children’s Literature

SYNOPSIS

Ty, The Tyrannosaur just wants to make a new friend.

Sadly, the other dinosaurs are all afraid of his sharp teeth! So Ty must go on an adventure to find a dinosaur brave enough to be friends with a Tyrannosaur.

ADD TO GOODREADS

REVIEW

While children’s books isn’t exactly a staple in our household, its always fun to give a read at a simple picture book and screen it for my friends and their little ones. The Littlest Dinosaur caught me with its cute illustrations from its book cover of a little dinosaur. Being a fan of The Land Before Time as a child, dinosaurs are fascinating characters for stories.

The Littlest Dinosaur is a simple book to read and yet, between the lovely and cute illustrations of Ty’s adventures as he tries to make friends with the other dinosaurs he encounters. Being a Tyrannosaur, he is caught in prejudices of how dangerous he could be as they all would be his snack. That’s until he meets The Littlest Dinosaur who doesn’t have these prejudices and listens and helps correct the views. It has a pretty decent and positive message about accepting those around you and learning about them before forming prejudices. Its rather witty on how it plays with some fun little details of what Ty likes and the little encounters.

The illustration also brings a lot to the picture book. Its captivating and colorful. The art style is really nice. The different settings also have their own little fun designs. Plus, all the dinosaurs are different types and each illustrated with different colors and shows their characteristics.

There’s a lot to love about The Littlest Dinosaur. Its simple enough for young children to enjoy as a story and has a nice message behind it that kids can slowly learn and has all the cute illustrations to be fun to look at.

Purchase Links
The Littlest Dinosaur
Amazon
Lulu
Lulu Hardcover

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryce Raffle was the lead writer for the video game studio Ironclad Games. He also writes stories for young adults and designs book covers.

Steven Kothlow is making his debut as a children’s book writer. He hopes to tell many more stories that help spread a message of diversity and inclusion especially in children’s literature.

Tessa Verplancke is a sound designer by day and an illustrator by night. She lives to tell stories through as many mediums as possible.

BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

March 8th

Reads & Reels (Review)
Didi Oviatt (Review)
I Smell Sheep (Review)
@geauxgetlit (Review)
Lunarian Press (Review)
@_yay_books (Review)

March 9th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight)
@dreaminginpages (Review)
Bonnie Reads and Writes (Review)
Book Dragons Not Worms (Review)
@kathreadsya (Review)
Michelle Meng’s Book Blog 4 (Review)
Books Teacup and Reviews (Review)

March 10th

B is for Book Review (Spotlight)
Jessica Belmont (Spotlight)
@jodys_ig (Spotlight)
Books Rambling and Tea (Review)
@joanna.zoe (Review)
The Faerie Review (Review)
@brendajeancombs (Spotlight)

March 11th

The Invisible Moth (Review)
@devoured_pages (Review)
Ruby Red Romance Review (Review)
Tranquil Dreams (Review)
@bookishqueendom (Review)

March 12th

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)
Tsarina Press (Spotlight)
Book Review Crew (Review)
Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review)
Sophril Reads (Review)
Bookish Laura (Review)

GIVEAWAY

Giveaway: International

To win a digital prize pack which includes the ebook copy of the book, two desktop wallpapers for the computer, two cell phone backdrops, plus three printable activity pages including colouring two book pages and a maze, click the link below to enter!

ENTER RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY HERE

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Blog Tour: Shame Of It All by K.T. Grant (Review/Giveaway)

Shame Of It All
By: K.T. Grant

Publication Date: December 6th, 2020
Genre: Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS

*Trigger Warning : Violence/ Sexual Assault

Revenge is a dish best served cold. But for Mercy Pryce her revenge will scald one’s soul and leave behind a burnt-out husk if she has her way.

Mercy has returned to her hometown of Cartleigh, New York after twenty years. The lakeside community is the perfect location for Yakim Zeldovich, her Russian billionaire employer’s state of the art manufacturing facility. Acting as a consultant for Zeldovich, she’s on an undercover mission, not as an angel of mercy, but one of mischief, deceit and torture. Her ultimate goal is to ruin Cartleigh because of a horrible trauma she suffered in high school. The one responsible for her wrath is Colton Hahn, Cartleigh’s beloved mayor, and the object of her retaliation. The town’s golden boy, who she once adored as an impressionable teenager, brutally raped her and left her for dead at seventeen.

Consumed by years of grief and growing rage, she has targeted Colton, who may also be responsible for the death of her best friend, Marina, his fiancé. She will avenge Marina and finally take down the monster who tried to ruin her life.

Her success may come at a horrible price. But it will all be worth it if she can take away everything Colton holds dear, including him surrendering his heart and soul to her in the process.

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REVIEW

If thrillers are a hard genre to grasp, revenge based psychological thrillers are probably even harder to balance especially when it brings in an element of sexual and erotic manipulation elements into the overall story. Shame Of It All has its own pros and cons. For the most part, the story does flow relatively well with the pacing. There are some moments where it does feel very wordy near the end that lays out the “best laid plans” of the main character which makes the ending feel probably a little bit too clear cut. However, there are elements of executing the sexual manipulation and creating a story that works almost in parallel with the present and what happens in the past that drives the character to make these plans for revenge that makes it all the more intriguing. While the story itself doesn’t feel exactly unpredictable in the path it takes and the reveal seems a little lackluster, the writing style here does give the story a big boost.

The story is written in first person perspective from the main character Mercy’s point of view. Everything is voiced through her thoughts and actions and every character plays off of her and the things that the character lays out. This does create an angle to give the characters around her a chance to reveal as she learns more about them especially since she returns twenty years later to a place that she grew up in. Despite it being focused on Colton Hahn, the mayor of the town, this story revolves around a few other characters that actually might be crafted a little better since his character feels pretty well laid out and not exactly as surprising reveal in his secrets. In fact, what drives the story better is that Mercy’s character because of this revenge and how it ends actually veers away from a personal pet peeve, that this boosted up how I felt about the story itself. However, Mercy is a rather conflicting character to back. In some ways, she’s a character that might be pitied but doesn’t want to be pitied and yet her vengeful personality and the way the character talks doesn’t exactly make her likeable as well however if you ask whether what she’s doing is right or wrong, that’s another discussion point. Perhaps what crafts an even more interesting angle is the character of Yakim and the mysterious elements with his background which stayed a mystery because of his name more in quick conversations and in passing through conversations and small moments.

Overall, Shame Of It All is a decent revenge thriller. It has its little issues. The ending is executed a little lackluster in some parts. There are some characters that are well in development however some of them also lack some depth. However, the writing style and the way it treats each of the more sexual elements and the balance of power between the characters of Mercy and Colton is done really well. There’s a certain level of msytery due to the execution building itself up throughout.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

KT Grant is a self-proclaimed eccentric redhead who not only loves to read a wide variety of romances, but also loves writing it. As a former book blogger and entertainment columnist with a bad coffee and Twitter addiction, she still doesn’t shy away from voicing her opinion. A proud native of New Jersey, KT is multi-published and writes Gay, Lesbian and Straight romance. KT has also been a top ten best-selling author at Amazon. KT loves to hear from readers. You can drop KT an email at ktgrnt@gmail.com.

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Blog Tour: Up The Creek by Alissa Grosso (Review/Giveaway)

Up The Creek (Culver Creek #1)
By: Alissa Grosso

Expected Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Genre: Supernatural Thriller

SYNOPSIS

An unsolved murder. Disturbing dreams. A missing child.

Caitlin Walker hasn’t had a dream in nine years. But now nightmares torture her son Adam and awaken in Caitlin buried memories and a dark secret. Her husband Lance has a secret of his own, one that his son’s nightmares threaten to reveal.

In Culver Creek newly hired detective Sage Dorian works to unravel the small town’s notorious cold case, the grisly murder of a young girl.

How are Caitlin and Lance connected to the horrific crime? And how far will they go to make sure their secrets stay hidden? Find out in this riveting thriller.

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REVIEW

Being the first book for an upcoming series, Up the Creek sets a good foundation. Up The Creek is well-paced and executes the story back and forth between its characters. In this case, it involves 3 main characters: Caitlin Walker, her husband Lance Walker and the new detective in Culver Creek Sage Dorian, who has been hired to take a look at the cold case. As a thriller, it also is executed quite well to slowly give the reveal of what is the secret with Caitlin and Lance that links them to the disappearance of their child and the cold case. It also sets up the story so that the finale delivers a question that makes you think whether all this could have been avoided if one person’s decision had been different and whether some secrets are best exposed.

One of the best elements of Up The Creek is the character design/development. The three characters each have their own connection to the past that brings up some flashbacks and through various conversations with the new situation that comes up reveals their secrets little by little. With that said, the characters are fairly complexed and suitably so for a thriller. Caitlin’s secret is probably the easiest to piece together: the reason that she takes medication for her dreams and the quick reveal of her tendency for nightmares pieces together easily to see her deal. However, this ends up connecting to her young son Adam that eventually goes missing and no one truly knows who took him and what happened. Lance Walker is probably the character with the most secrets from what seems like every day habits to slowly see that he has a much stronger connection to the case. His character is actually rather fascinating as he unveils and everything comes into place. That leaves Sage Dorian which probably starts to feel like the balance for his part is a little smaller however he is a key part as he pulls the cold case with the new missing child case together. At a certain point at the end, it is fairly clear how it all pieces together however, there isn’t an issue for this character to draw the conclusions clearly. As a side note, while this isn’t mentioned but there seems to be one connection that probably will come into play at the end in future books as it may connect to Sage Dorian that wasn’t addressed.

As a first book of a series, Up The Creek leaves a lot to look forward to for future books set in Culver Creek. Already by the end, there still is the issue of Sage Dorian’s own family mystery that hasn’t been addressed yet and only mentioned that gives his character some foundation. Writing good thrillers are very difficult and something that I mention quite a bit. Up The Creek does a great job to make it both gripping and thrilling to watch from beginning to end with decent pacing and execution. Up The Creek is a great thriller and well worth a read.

Score: 4.5/5

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alissa Grosso is the author of several books for adults and teens. Originally from New Jersey, she now resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. You can find out more about her and her books at AlissaGrosso.com.

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2021 Upcoming Plans

It’s 2021!! Happy New Year everyone! Hope everyone has found their own way to celebrate. The beginning of the new year means that its time to get back to some plans for this coming year and some changes in projects, etc. I needed an extra day to figure some little things out since I hadn’t quite decided on everything yet. This time around, I’ll share some projects for the blog and some more personal little goals to get back some good lifestyle habits. Let’s take this section by section!

BOOKS

  • 2021 Goodreads Challenge: 30 books

I’ve had a hard time reading the past few years and most of the time when I set the 30 books reading, I don’t get there but I really do want to read more, despite having some different types of projects this year and may result in less time. Either way, its a challenge that I’m up for. Plus, between blog tours (which I might participate a little less in this year depending on what I’m interested in), TBR of my own both in physical books and Kindle books.

MOVIES

Movies is more of a free flow sort of deal. I do want to dive into a focus on Chinese cinema whether from Mainland China or Hong Kong or Taiwan. However, I do know that that angle is for my own interest so I do have quite a bit to get through whether on Shudder or Netflix which is my main source of movie matching other than the random cheap rental that I pick up or the movie selections for Movies and Tea which is getting into Season 7 production soon with a director that definitely will bring on some interesting discussion for their retrospective. Seeing as we’re really ahead, I’m going to keep it a secret for now. However, last year I didn’t even reach 300 movies logged on Letterboxd so if I manage to get 300 or more movies watched this year, I would be quite pleased.

As for structure, I am keeping to the double feature format unless its a newly released Netflix film or even Shudder exclusive. I will try to get on top of that much more this coming year since I don’t foresee theatre releases or visits to happen anytime soon in Montreal.

Other than the normal themed months below:

  • February 1st – 14th : Valentine’s Romance
  • October: Halloween Horror
  • December 1st-25th: Holiday Films

I was unsuccessful at doing the themed months of other genres/subgenres during random months last year but that is a goal that I would like to do. As for what themes? I have a few in mind.

TV

As I watch much more TV (which is probably why movies had a drop last year), I’ve been giving this segment a lot of thought. I will still be doing TV binges however with a much more relaxed structure. I already started it at the end of the year. While I love the structure that I had for Chinese dramas for analysis of plot, pacing, characters and the overall view, it also became this long arduous post that took a long time to put together. Less division and more just free writing for future TV binges, much like the non Chinese drama TV binges that I do as some series really don’t have that much to write about.

However, what has been on my mind for TV is something will be a bigger change/addition to this post and that’s the next section…

TRANQUIL DREAMS PODCAST

Its a solo podcast! I don’t know how I’ll do talking to myself about anything but it has been something that I’ve been thinking about structure, title and content since the beginning of the pandemic last year (probably even longer). My thoughts years ago when this idea first started was a Youtube Channel but I just don’t have time to edit video and audio since it takes a ton of time so here we are. Podcasts do not limit the length because its audio and I’ll have it on a format that people can download. Its going to be another learning curve since right now, my fantastic co-host takes care of all the audio for the other 2 podcasts.

I know the name isn’t exactly inspirational but its connected to the blog originally wanted it to be about only Chinese dramas as an English review and introduction so that people can find the ones that are readily available on Youtube or Netflix (only those with English subtitles, of course). However, the reason for Tranquil Drams Podcast is that it opens up for a few little ideas I’ve had to move here also hopefully.

  • What’s Up segment will be moved completely over on a weekly basis. If it gets a little too heavy to produce, I might change it to biweekly frequency.
  • TV Binges will be moved here. Some less chat worthy will be in written formats (or maybe I’ll do both). Regardless, some series like big productions or Netflix gives me a lot to talk about and its hard to get it all down.
  • A segment that I wanted to revive since last year is Sunday Lists so maybe in podcast format will give me boost considering I have probably 2 or 3 already partially drafted.
  • A new segment as a new goal for the podcast which was how the Youtube idea started is an Adaptations versus Source Material comparison. This is kind of a maybe as I’m not sure how things will look in the coming year mostly on the real life side of things.

OTHER RANDOM SEGMENTS

Most segments have no change other than the ones mentioned above:

  • [changes] What’s Up: moved to podcast format (see above if you skipped it)
  • My Monthly Adventures: I will keep this in written format however with the pandemic still going on, its more of a place to put together what’s been released on my other projects and such.
  • [changes] Battle of Ingredients: in hiatus. We didn’t address it last year at all but with the pandemic, we have no choice but to put this project on hiatus for obvious reasons.
  • Music Obsessions: Still on monthly basis. Not a lot of views but I do love putting together this post.
  • Ultimate Decades Blogathon: Production meeting has already happened and confirmed to happen. Announcement post coming up once we iron out some little details.

PERSONAL GOALS

It sure feels like I’ve stopped sharing my personal goals over the last few years. Maybe that’s why I’ve grown lazy with some of it. Here we are again and it will be a complete balancing act. I made the decision that regardless of anything that when I set time aside from something, I will do it. Work is a huge factor to why a lot of things get postponed but I need remember that its not my entire life. With that said, main goal for next year is mostly exercise related:

  • Workout: 2-3 times a week and gradually increase to 3-4 times a week
    • Indoors during the winter (bodyweights, weights, yoga, cardio)
    • Outdoors running (hopefully by April)
    • Hiking more often
  • Eat healthier and more balanced meals: This year, we’ve lowered drinking alcohol in general to once or twice a month and its been a pretty good feeling. Its more to eat more fruits since I always forget to keep the fruits and vegetables daily intake as well as hydration on par.
  • Start Streaming: I’ve been thinking about streaming games for a good while. The hesitation is pretty much the same as for solo podcasts where I have to talk to myself. Its mostly for fun and not exactly to promote anything. I started teaming up on voice chat with one of my friends on a weekly basis during his stream to experience horror games together on Monday. You can check out his channel HERE as he streams about 5 – 7 times a week playing three to four different games. I’m having a lot of fun with it and its been something that I’ve been wanting to do more and more. I’m slowly fixing up the info and such on the channel to get it ready gradually. Hopefully a little later in January, it will be up and running. I’m not quite as ambitious as my friend so I’m going for once or twice a week playing mostly indie games which are more focused on narrative but no limits as I just want to get through all the games I’ve bought and haven’t played on Steam.
  • Buy a new sofa, office chair (and maybe bicycle): being first time homeowners, we were lucky to get a lot of second hand relatively decent quality furniture from family to help us get through the first few years of paying the mortgage but as much as I do like the sofa, it needs to be changed before it damages our backs. The same applies for a new office chair. Working from home more has worn it out more than it already has from my cat and its not great to have a squeaky office chair especially for podcast recording. As for a bicycle, considering everyone in Montreal swept the stores of them last year because of the pandemic, I’m hoping that I finally find one this year that isn’t going to break the bank.

Upcoming plans post are rather bland to read overall and I did try to keep this not so lengthy, but hey, look at this length. If there’s something you find is missing, well, its probably either cut or indefinitely in hiatus or its something that I’ve moved to Instagram content (which I need to do better also). If you have any suggestions for movie themed months or what topics for the podcast, etc, let me know in the comments as well.

This is it for the 2021 plans!
As usual, the goal is not procrastinate as much and stick to the tentative schedule!
Happy 2021 everyone and all the best in this coming year (hopefully things will get back to some form of normalcy gradually pandemic-wise)!
As always, stay safe!