Author Interview: Catherine Weaver

Interview Orange

Welcome to another Book Squirrel Author Interview, in which Book Squirrel meets Catherine Weaver, the author of the Island of California books, which are fantasy books set in the present day Silicon Valley area and the magical Island of California.

Welcome, Catherine!

Thank you, Book Squirrel. It’s lovely to meet you!

Tell us, Catherine, what kind of audience you write for.

My books were written for middle-grade readers and have absolutely nothing in them that is not family-friendly. Kids who have read the books so far really like them, and most adults who have read them like them, too.

That’s great! It’s true that the best kids’ books are loved by adults as well.

Yes, there’s a child in all of us.

Or, at least, a very cute little squirrel. 

Yes, of course!

Are your books all in a series, or are they single titles?

The novels, Gold Dust and Phoenix Down, and I am currently working on the third in the series, Dragon Oil.

I also have two books of short stories: Tales From the Island of California, and More Tales From the Island of California.

What inspired you to write?

I come from a family of writers. My mother, Jane Blue, is a poet, and her mother wrote articles for newspapers in San Francisco, so I grew up with the idea that writing was something people do. But what really inspired me to actually start writing books was my huge love of reading, plus my love of the San Francisco Bay Area. I read lots and lots of books that I loved, but noticed there was a distinct lack of fantasy books set in the SF Bay Area and Silicon Valley, which I feel are among the most magical places on Earth, and I wished I could read a book like that. Since I couldn’t find them, I decided to write them.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

I like them all, but have a special place in my heart for my first book, Gold Dust.

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?

Ask me this on a different day and I will give you a different answer. I am a voracious reader and I have a lot of favorites. Right now I’m reading Ready Player One, which I am enjoying very much. I just finished Anansi Boys, which I feel is a perfect book. I also think most of the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett are perfect. I completely loved The Martian and can’t wait for the sequel. The Thin Man is one of the best books ever written. The Harry Potter books are likewise amazing. When I was a kid, I read and re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy to a point where I had them memorized, and the same goes for the Chronicles of Narnia. There are many more.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Today I have to say Ready Player One.

What are you working on writing now?

The third book in my series, which is called Dragon Oil.

Do you have any books planned that feature… you know… squirrels?

Uh… no. Sorry.

It’s okay. It’s never too late, you know.

I’ll keep that in mind.

Thanks.
What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

When I went to Switzerland and stayed with friends in Yverdon near Lausanne, rented an Alpha Romeo, and drove all over the french part of Switzerland, then down the Rhone Valley in France to Marseille, staying in Valence on the way.

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

I really hate prejudice, greed and the way artists are devoured by the machine. I also hate religious, cultural and gender discrimination. These things are addressed in my writing, in a way that is palatable for kids. My books are full of humor, so the things I hate are not hit over anyone’s head.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An architect.

Cool!
What’s your favourite season? Why?

I like autumn the best because it’s sunny but not too hot, the air smells of wood fires, and the low sunlight slanting through the turning leaves is beautiful.
And all those lovely nuts!
Absolutely!

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

Terry Pratchett, Dashiell Hammet, JRR Tolkien

Great choices! 

Thanks!

Where can we follow you on social media?I’m on Facebook and Twitter and I also have a webpage.

You’re also welcome to check out my Amazon author page, which has all of my books on it.

Just click through on the links.

Thanks for being here today, Catherine. 

Thank you for having me!

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Book Review: ‘Robin Hood: Wolf’s Head’ by Eric Tanafon

Every now and then, as a reader, I experience an incredible moment of revelation when I take in an expression or image of something that is so powerful, it takes my breath away.

No sooner had I started reading ‘Robin Hood: Wolf’s Head’ than I had to stop and experience the moment. I had just read an extraordinarily beautiful sentence: “The forest clearing was a web of moonlight and shadows.”

What perfect imagery!  It is simple and direct, but powerfully evocative at the same time.

In that moment, I was there. I had been transported to that forest clearing and drawn into the world of the story, even before I knew anything else about it.

This is the magic a writer works when wielding the wand that is their pen.

Eric Tanafon Robin Hood Wolf's Head

Tanafon continues to cast these spells with magnificent imagery throughout this book. As tales are told and the various storylines develop, the author provides the reader with a feast of sensory morsels that both satisfy and delight the reader.

At times, such images can be consumed at speed. Others, like this one, demand more thoughtful digestion to fully appreciate the skill in Tanafon’s craft:

“The autumn day had dawned softly, with light mists gathered around the sun like a veil. In the late morning the forest was still sweet and moist, haunted by the ghosts of decaying leaves.”

As a writer, I lost count of the times I read a sentence or two and thought to myself, “I wish I had written that!”

Tanafon’s genius in reinventing the story of Robin Hood as a paranormal adventure is equally as enchanting as his writing. The stories of Robin Hood, his band of followers and of their enemies are interwoven, not as a braid but as a rich tapestry. Thus the old stories are retold, stripping back the gloss of legend and hero worship and offering the reader a far more thought-provoking and deeply engaging retelling of the famous tales.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s not just a fantastic read: this is literature absolutely worthy of the top shelf.

Available on Amazon.

Book Review: ‘The Rite Of Wands’ by Mackenzie Flohr

Mackenzie Flohr has created a beautiful world of magical kingdoms in which ambition and conspiracy work to undermine the rightful order and overthrow the rule of the rightful king.

The story is populated by beautifully complex characters, among whom Mierta McKinnon and Orlynd O’Brien take the lead roles. Very few of the characters are transparent at all, so the story keeps on developing interest and intrigue as it progresses. The very fact that Mierta is so complicated and driven a character draws the reader into his thoughts and aspirations, and engages one deeply in the events of the story as they unfold.

It would be too simplistic to say that this is a story of a battle between good and evil. It may be so, but there are nuances and shades of truth and revelation, and of injustice and vindication, that obscure some elements of the characters and of the story so that the reader is never really able to foresee or predict what is yet to come. In this story, the only thing that is sure is that anything could happen. 
The story finished at a logical point of resolution, although I really didn’t want it to. A number of questions, both incidental and central to the story, remain to be answered in future books. I’m very keen for the next book!

All in all, this is shaping up to be the series I have been waiting for since I finished reading Harry Potter the seventh time over. It’s not more of the same – the world, the characters and the problems they face are very different, but The Rite Of Wands does capture the imagination in the same fantastic, magical way.

The Rite Of Wands is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

Book Review: Moon Breaker by Matthew Marchitto

Matthew Marchitto Moon Breaker

This is a highly interesting and exciting story that gives the reader plenty to think about.

In Moon Breaker, Marchitto delivers a gripping, brutal portrayal of a society breaking down from within through a tribal fantasy adventure story that explores what happens to a society when its people abandon the values that underpin it.

Moon Breaker raises significant ethical questions about how the value a society places on the wellbeing of the individual vs that of the collective, and the impact that value has on what is considered right and wrong.  The events and characters of the story challenge the reader to think about what happens when common understandings of truth and right are actually based on lies, as well as when those lies are confronted and exposed, and the consequences this can have for individuals.

This book is really well written. The central characters are complex and well-developed, while the necessary qualities of the secondary and minor characters are portrayed clearly and effectively in the light of the key ideas and message of the story.

Marchitto’s expression and imagery was creative and powerful, delivering his ideas in profound ways. My favourite line in the book is where Nala, in her grief, watches keepsakes possessions burn along with something more sacred and valuable. With the conviction that nothing mattered anymore, her observation is that “they all burned the same in her eyes.”
That line made me pause and think about how realistic that was as a portrayal of the effect of grief on an individual who has lost far more than “things”.

The story moved at a good pace and kept me intrigued from one phase to the next.  The ending is as profound as the discoveries made along the way by Nala, Koll and Kohn.

All in all, it’s a ripping good read that offers a fascinating study of human nature along the way.

It’s a solid five stars from me.

You can find Moon Breaker on Amazon.

Book Review: The Undernet by J.S. Frankel

‘The Undernet’ by J. S. Frankel brings new definition to the age-old contest between good and evil, and between truth and deceit as a young man seeks answers that seem determined to remain hidden.

Jesse Frankel The Undernet

Frankel has crafted realistic, likeable and engaging central characters in Milt and his girlfriend, Robbie.  They’re not perfect, and their mistakes have consequences, which makes them easier to empathise with and understand. Insights into Milt’s thoughts and gut reactions, and his feelings about Robbie, draw the reader into the often very confronting story of his quest for justice and truth.

Part of Frankel’s genius in casting this story is designing characters who live and work in the shadows, so that the reader has to keep questioning whether they are the good guys or the bad guys. There are so many layers of intrigue and concealment in this story that the reader is kept curious and wanting to know, much like Milt throughout this story, seeing the truth despite layers of concealment and misinformation. In this sense, the Undernet and the Dark Net take on the roles of additional impersonal characters that deliberately obscure reality in this story, just as they seem to in actual fact.

Some parts of The Undernet are definitely uncomfortable to read. In graphic contrast to the sincere and honest friendship Milt has with Robbie and with his best friend, Simon, Frankel gives his readers a solidly-written exposè of the dark side of human nature as one is likely to find it on the dark side of the internet – or anywhere. This is delivered with confronting realism and honesty. Through all of this, It was the strong identification I felt with with Milt’s “ordinary person” response to the ugly side of life that enabled me to keep reading and hoping for him to find the resolution he was so desperate to find.

The Undernet is available on Amazon or from devinedestinies.com

Author Interview: Richard Ankers

Interview Red

 

Hi, readers! Today I’m interviewing Richard Acorns, author of the YA dark fantasy series, The Eternals.
Hi, Richard! 

Hi, Squirrel! Before we start… it’s Ankers.

Ankers? You’ve lost me.

My name. I’m Richard Ankers.

I’m sorry?

You called me Richard Acorns.

I did? That’s nuts!

*awkward silence*

I am so sorry! Let me start again.

Please do.

 

Hi, readers! Today I’m interviewing Richard Ankers, author of the brilliant YA dark fantasy series, The Eternals.
Welcome, Richard! 

Well, hello!

 

What inspired you to write?

The honest answer is, I just had to. It was the showing that writing to other people that was the problem. When I learned of a good friend’s untimely and very sad passing, I decided life was too short. So really, my friend, Peta, was the reason I shared my writing with the world.

 

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

I always think the thing I’m presently writing is the best. A desire to get better with each new word powers that. However, I always have a fondness for my novels and short stories. If something is less than a thousand words though, I forget I’ve even written it about five minutes after having done so. I’m terrible!

 

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?

My favourite book is called The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock.

 

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

I reread Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I love it.

 

What are you working on writing now?

I’m working on a new Steampunk/Fantasy trilogy titled The Theatre of the Moon.

 

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

Ooh… Either visiting the Ice Hotel in Sweden, or Wengen in Switzerland (I love mountains).

 

What is your pet hate?

When others get my name wrong.

*awkward silence*

Really? 

No.  *laughs kindly* I was teasing you.

Okay. I deserved that. What really is your pet hate, and have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

I hate littering; it really gets on my goat, as we say here. I haven’t used that particular foible in my writing, but I might now.

 

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Lost in Translation

 

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Anything sporty. I was lucky that I was good at all sports and unlucky that I lost focus because of it.

 

What’s your favourite season, and why?

I love winter. I’m a verifiable nutcase for snow. I’ve loved the snow ever since reading the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid.

 

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

Michael Moorcock / Haruki Murakami / Gene Wolfe

 

Name three people you admire, and give reasons.

I’m not a great admirer of anyone in particular, as I’m not easily impressed. I like people who walk the walk, those who do what they say, not tell others to. Perhaps Nelson Mandela if anyone. I’ve also always had a lot of time for David Attenborough.

 

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

If you’re as shy as me, it’s difficult. The loudest are often the most read, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best. Far from it.

 

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Both of my knees; they’ve got it in for me. Won’t stop me running though.

 

Where can readers find your books?

The Eternals: http://mybook.to/TheEternals

Hunter Hunted: http://mybook.to/HunterHunted

Into Eternity: http://mybook.to/IntoEternity

 

Those are great covers!

Thank you!

 

Most welcome!

Where can readers follow you on social media?

WordPress: www.richardankers.com

Facebook Author: http://facebook.com/richardmankers

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Richard_Ankers

Medium: https://medium.com/@Richard_Ankers

Amazon Author: http://author.to/RichardAnkers

 

Thanks for joining me today, Richard. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. 

I have, Book Squirrel. Thanks for having me.

Book Review: ‘Only The Few’ by L.N. Denison

L N Denison Only The Few
This suspenseful thriller had me hooked right from the start.

Immersed immediately in the world of post-apocalyptic London in 2025 and the life of the main character, Corporal Catherine Hyde, the drama unfolds steadily from the first page. From that point, the tension starts to build and the questions begin to gnaw at both the reader and Corporal Hyde.

Hyde’s character is brilliantly developed. She is likeable, strong enough to be a hero and weak enough to be believeable. The reader feels as though they know and understand her, and begins to feel defensive of her when she faces challenges from the situations she faces and from other people. Her flawed humanity contrasts profoundly with her strengths, adding another layer of deep complexity and irony to the story.

There are some incredibly confronting scenes which Denison has crafted to be both compelling and extremely uncomfortable: despite the strong desire to “look away”, the reader has to keep going because the story is just that good.

There is nothing predictable about ‘Only The Few’. The author keeps the reader wondering and guessing right up until the last page. On going back to previous chapters and re-reading sections, it became evident that the author had achieved exceptionally clever delivery of clues that the reader will never realise are clues until they return to those scenes after finishing the book. That is a sign of a gifted writer with a talent for creating and crafting fantastic stories.

The book concludes with a teaser line about a “companion” novel which spurs the curiosity and keeps the wondering and guessing going. I know what I want that companion story to be, but I guess I’m just going to have to wait until it arrives to find out if I’m right.

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Bravo, L N. Denison.  5 stars from me.