Spotlight & Excerpt ~ Patriarch Run

In the spotlight today is educator Benjamin Dancer’s recent novel, Patriarch Run. For the month of April, proceeds from his book will go to a local program, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, that brings local writers into the classrooms.

Displaying paper front4.pngTitle: Patriarch Run
Author: Benjamin Dancer
Release Date: April 2014
Length: 312 pages
Series?: The Father Trilogy
Genre: Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon 

Synopsis

Billy discovers that his father might be a traitor, that he was deployed to safeguard the United States from a cyberattack on its military networks. After that mission, his father disappeared along with the Chinese technology he was ordered to steal–a weapon powerful enough to sabotage the digital infrastructure of the modern age and force the human population into collapse. 

Against a backdrop of suspense, the story explores the archetypal themes of fatherhood, coming of age and self-acceptance through a set of characters that will leave you changed.

Excerpt

Rachel never rode over the summit of the mountain because of the treacherous nature of that trail. It was against all rational judgement that she found herself on it now. At tree line the horse climbed over the ridge, stepped out of the spruce forest and onto the packed scree that made up the trail from there to the tundra. The mountainside below them gave way completely to granite cliffs.
The trail snaked along the top.
At the highest point among the cliffs, with nearly a thousand feet of empty space beneath the hooves of Old Sam, Rachel spotted two figures several hundred yards in the distance. She talked to the horse. Said she couldn’t be sure, but it looked to be a man and a bristlecone pine.
The horse walked on.
“Watch your step, Old Sam.”
As they closed the distance, Rachel recognized him and saw that he was untying a rope from the gnarled tree.
“You couldn’t have picked a better view.”
Regan had looked at her once when he first heard the hooves on the scree, then he went back to his rope. Now he looked up at her face. Looked the horse over. Then he studied her eyes. She had divined his purpose.
He looked away. “Yeah, it’ll do.”
The two knew each other, but had rarely had cause to speak.
“I don’t mean to meddle, but it seems to me that the rope is ill conceived.”
Regan finished retying the rope to the tree, tested the knot and asked, “How so?”
“Too much length, and the wind, along with your own momentum, will lacerate your flesh against the rock.”
He looked over the edge. “That occurred to me as you were coming up. I shortened the rope.”
“Not enough length, and it’ll be slow and painful.”
He studied the coil of parachute cord on the ground and said with very little inflection. “It looks about right to me.” Then he walked over to a granite boulder.
“Seems you’ve thought it through.”
He sat down and pulled off his right boot. “We’ll see.”
Rachel reached behind her and took out a water bottle. Drank. She offered the bottle to Regan with a gesture.
He put out his lower lip and shook his head almost imperceptibly.
She capped it and put it back.
“Mind if I ask you a question?”
“Go ahead.” He pulled off the other boot.
“Why the rope and the cliff?”
“Coyotes.”
“I don’t follow.”
“When I was a kid, coyotes killed my dog. I heard the fight, but by the time I found her in the dark, they were already feeding on her guts.” He took off both socks and stood up. “They pulled her insides out through her anus.” He stepped over to the precipice and surveyed the valley.
“How old were you?”
“Six.”
Rachel nodded her head, which he didn’t see.
“With only the rope or only the cliff, I’d be left for the coyotes.”
“But this way it’s only insects and birds.”
He spun to face her, his widened eyes betraying surprise–or maybe alarm.
“Birds always eat the eyeballs first,” she continued. “Must be a delicacy to them. The insects just want a womb for their maggots. A nutrient-rich source to give their young a good start.”
Regan fidgeted with the socks in his hands.
“You could’ve picked a high branch.”
He looked distracted, as if he was still digesting the other image. “I thought of that.” He walked over to his boots, unbuttoning his silk shirt.
“Yeah.”
“A bear could cut the rope.”
“It seems you’ve thought it through.”
He took off his shirt, folded it and set it on a rock. “We’ll see.”
Rachel looked back over the trail. “Well, I best be goin’.”
“OK.”
She turned the horse, “Those are some fancy clothes.”
“Yeah.” He took off his belt. “The boots alone cost me eleven hundred dollars, and that was before tax.”
“I suppose it’s fitting.”
“It seemed that way to me, too, down at the house. But after being up here, I don’t think so.”
“How so?”
He wasn’t looking at her anymore. “I think I’ll be more comfortable without them.”
“What are you going to do with those eleven hundred dollar boots?”
He carried the clothes over to the bristlecone tree, put the boots on top of the folded shirt, the socks inside the boots and the belt around the boots. “Come back and get ’em if you like.”
“Well, I best be gettin’ along.”
“Ok.”
“You know my place?”
“I know it.”
“We’ll be sittin’ down for supper around six. Sirloin and potatoes. If you have a mind to, you’re welcome to stop by.”
He picked up the loose end of the parachute cord and started tying a hangman’s noose. “I appreciate that.”

Benjamin DancerAbout the Author

Benjamin is an Advisor at Jefferson County Open School where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. He wrote the novelsPATRIARCH RUN, IN SIGHT OF THE SUN and FIDELITY. He also writes about parenting and education. 

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

**UPDATE**

The “Amanda” part of The Eclectic Bookworm is up to her eyeballs with personal issues right now.  She just moved into a new house, she’s working (a lot) and its about to be summer.  And her laptop crashed.  And she doesn’t want to investigate writing posts on her smartphone.  So here is a list of books currently in queue, and hopefully by the end of May, the reviews will be up.

In no particular order:

Honor and Innocence — Against the Tides of War by Glen Thomas Hierlmeier

Guildhall Guardian — Thamesian #1 by Aidan Ladsow

Kingdoms of the Dead Book One — Chemical Rot by Ian Woodhead

Follow the Joy: A memoir by Jason Scott Kurtz

The Experiment by Cristian Alejandro Solari

Backspin:  One Player’s Journey from the U.S. to Europe and Back Again by Pete Strobl

The Perfect Game by Stephen Paul

The Tip Jar by Carol Lynn George

State of Grace by Elizabeth Davies

The London Project by Mark J. Maxwell

The Holy Mark by Gregory Alexander

The Buck Pass by T.R. Whittier

The God Particle by Daniel Danser

Sating the Preta: A Memoir about Emotional Abuse and Recovery from Complex PTSD by Lily Scot

Afflicted Dawn by Gregory Napier

A Soul’s Kiss by Debra Chapoton

If I forgot you, please send me an email and remind me.  And I just sent out a ton of emails accepting books for review this morning.

Also, I read books by mood, meaning, once I’m done with a book, I’ll glance through the ones I have accepted and if something fits my mood, I start it.  I don’t go in order of books received because then it is more like a job to me than a hobby.  I really appreciate you sharing your work with me.

Hope you are enjoying the blog, thank you for being patient.

— Amanda

Book Review: Revelations (Thera’s Eyes Series) by Leia Kiuski

Yes, I am on a paranormal romance, YA kick.  Again.  But I am so glad to be getting such different takes on the genre.  This one is no exception:

revelations

 

Here is the synopsis:

Elizabeth Monterey is a 17-year-old girl, who always had everything: lots of money, friends, the perfect boyfriend, and a promising future in the archery world. But an inexplicable accident changed her life forever, and now she needs to face the harsh reality of the death of her parents, a brother in a coma and the loss of her fortune. 

As if she hadn’t problems enough, demonic-looking creatures want the freedom to come and go to the human world as they please, and Elizabeth is the one chosen to prevent that from happening. But, she can’t do it alone. It will be necessary to find out who her allies are… and her enemies. 

So, the hunt begins. 

‘Revelations’, the first book in the ‘Thera’s Eyes series’, is an incredible adventure story, filled with magic and romance. A novel that follows the current trends and still manages to be different from anything you have ever read.

This is really different than the typical YA fare with wizards, zombies and vampires.  I truly admire authors that can create these worlds seemingly out of thin air.  I love learning about their creation, the laws of their world, the lore and history.  This story was no different.

I love that the main character, Beth, is flawed.  She’s shaken.  Her life has taken a turn for the worst and she is still standing.  But she is strong.  She overcomes her situations and makes the best of it, becoming a leader in a new world that she had no clue even existed.

I also like that despite the fact that she is now a warrior, she still has the same issues that most teenage girls do.  Especially with boys.  And one particular boy, Leon.  Some miscues and an overheard conversation leads her to think that he isn’t interested despite her overwhelming feeling for him.  This is pretty descriptive of her imagined situation:

If she could not have his love, at least she would have his friendship and she could still be a part of his life, even after he left, and it sure was better than having nothing at all.

I truly appreciate this aspect of the story.  It lends some realism…even though they are fighting “demons” she still is struggling with her feelings for a member of the opposite sex.

I absolutely love the friendship between the warriors.  Their loyalty to each other.  Their willingness to do what is needed to “save the world”.  Definitely a bonus in this story.

And it is very well written. The characters are well developed, the plot is well thought out, the writing is fantastic.

Overall a great read, very different than others of this genre, highly recommended for those who love YA paranormal romance.

 

Book Review: West by Caroline Starr

Book Cover - West V1

 

I reviewed the first book in this trilogy, Campbell, here.  Again, this story is amazing.  Not as intriguing as the first one, more than likely because the concept isn’t as new, but still great work.

After her world was turned upside down by the death of her twin and a new alliance forged through an unexpected friendship, Lucy Campbell left West determined to return to her old life. 

It took four years and a natural disaster for her to admit that was impossible.

Hatched from a lie devised to keep them both safe, the conflict with East has affected Lucy and Tal Bauman in different ways. It’s left Lucy engulfed in a bitter power struggle with her war-hungry brother. It’s forced Tal to align himself with Campbell, despite questioning their motivations in continuing to attack East, when peace seems attainable. He’s also left to sort out the mess left behind by his predecessor and best friend, Connor Wilde. 

When they are reunited by a tragedy, Lucy and Tal are forced to question how far their duties stretch, where their loyalties lie, and how far they would go for one another. 

They’re also left reevaluating their morals, values, and the futures of those around them. 

West is the second book in the Campbell trilogy. 

If you haven’t read Campbell, and you definitely have to before you read this book, the premise is that something wiped out all the adults and teenagers in the early 2000s.  The kids, aged 12 and under, had to fend for themselves and remake their world.  It is a completely fascinating concept.

What I like about the premise is that Ms. Starr uses it as a springboard to highlight coming of age issues.  How do you grow up when all of your parents, teachers, adults aren’t there to guide you?  So this series just captivates me.

This second installment was a little bit darker, but with more romance.  So I’ll take it.  The “kids” are now into their mid to late 20s and despite the fact of their upbringing, or lack thereof, they still struggle with the same issues “kids” in contemporary society struggle with.  Relationships, friends, “family”.  But there is so much more responsibility with Lucy and Tal.

They both are heads of state for large parts of the North American continent.  They not only have to deal with their own personal issues, but they have to deal with trade, war, diplomacy and economics.  Tal even had to deal with a murder trial for the first president of West and his best friend.

I loved that this book included more of a romance aspect.  It’s a different type of romance, and I do need to point out that this book isn’t YA, there is sex and violence.  It isn’t erotica, but it happens.

The type of romance that Ms. Starr features isn’t typical.  It’s refreshing.  It’s real:

She knew she loved him; the kind of love that was earned, cultivated over time, born of selflessness and respect.  It would never be throw-down, crazy passion because she didn’t operate that way.  What they had was better.

Ms. Starr also illustrates that basic human cruelty can survive in their post-apocalypse.  Even though they were kids when the world ended, they still retain the ability to torture each other, to go to war, to kill each other in cold blood.  That apparently will never be erased.

Overall a great read, excellent follow up to Campbell, and I can’t wait to read the third book.

Book Review: The Prophecy of Arcadia by M. H. Soars

prophecyarcadia

A different spin on YA paranormal romance and I loved it.  Here is the synopsis:

Being a teenager is tough, especially when you have to pretend to be something you’re not, and you’re in love with someone you shouldn’t. 115 years ago, a small planet called Arcadia was invaded by a vicious alien race and nearly destroyed. Cut off from their resources, the Arcadians turned to Earth for help. A group of Arcadian explorers discovered a Prophecy that claimed their salvation lay in the hands of two children from Earth. To ensure their safety, the Arcadian Council sent their most gifted youngsters to Earth to act as protectors. Samantha is one of them.

To succeed in her mission she must learn to control her Arcadian powers and keep her true identity from her best friend, and the girl she swore to protect, Alexia. But Samantha will soon realize that nothing is as it seems. Someone is trying to prevent the Prophecy from taking place and the prophecy boy hasn’t been found yet. There is also a new drug circulating at school that is turning students into freakishly strong menaces.

To make matters worse, distractions keep getting in her way. Such as her love/hate relationship with her “cousin” Matthew. Or her confused feelings toward popular and mysterious Julian. She wants nothing more than to be free to live her life. But the survival of Arcadia depends on her and her friends. Free will is not an option.

I liked that this book wasn’t typical YA.  It involved aliens.  The first chapter kind of made my eyes cross with all the alien names, but the story was amazing after I got past that.

This is YA, but I would classify it as older YA, just because there is sex involved as well as drugs and alcohol.  I would say 16 and up.

Sam is the main character, but the points of view swivel from character to character.  The author does an amazing job of this, as it is very clear which character is the speaker.  This can be very difficult, and the author pulls it off nicely.

Sam and her “cousins” are sworn to protect Alexia.  They have super powers that help them do this and they are trained to be bodyguards.  But their powers don’t really manifest until they are teenagers, and this creates some problems, especially for Sam.

Add in the fact that they are several teenagers around the same age living in the same house who aren’t related and you have some romantic issues.  Considering that they are pretending to be “cousins”, this presents some problems.

What I do like about this book is how it clearly conveys the angst of this time in life.  Despite who is the character speaking, the author makes this time in life abundantly clear:

Betrayal was one of the worst feelings a human being could possibly experience.  It gnawed at your insides, it twisted your heart until you thought it would be better if someone just ripped it out — then you wouldn’t feel the pain of it bleeding inside of you.

This passage could have been written by me at age 17, but maybe not so eloquently.

I do like the aspect that the guardians aren’t 100% automatons.  They know what the prophecy says, but they use their own brains to figure out that something isn’t right.

I was completely sucked into the world of Arcadia.  It is completely different in that most of these books feature vampires, wizards, etc.  So this was completely new to me.  And it is very well written, very concise, and the prophecy, sci-fi rules, powers, etc are clearly spelled out.  You don’t find characters suddenly doing something that they couldn’t before, or the prophecy doesn’t meld to fit the situation of the characters.  That is really important to me with reading these types of books.

Highly recommended for fans of paranormal romance and YA.  I love the sci-fi angle to it.  I am eagerly awaiting the next book.

 

Book Review: Starship Grifters by Rob Kroese

sg

 

Oh do I love me some Rob Kroese.  Whether he’s writing about renegade angels, physics or space, I absolutely adore his work.

If you have followed this blog, you have definitely seen his work mentioned on here.

His latest is a space adventure and it is just as fabulous as I anticipated.  Here is the synopsis:

A space-faring ne’er-do-well with more bravado than brains, Rex Nihilo plies the known universe in a tireless quest for his own personal gain. But when he fleeces a wealthy weapons dealer in a high-stakes poker game, he ends up winning a worthless planet…and owing an outstanding debt more vast than space itself!

The only way for Rex to escape a lifetime of torture on the prison world Gulagatraz is to score a big payday by pulling off his biggest scam. But getting mixed up in the struggle between the tyrannical Malarchian Empire and the plucky rebels of the Revolting Front—and trying to double-cross them both—may be his biggest mistake. Luckily for Rex, his frustrated but faithful robot sidekick has the cyber-smarts to deal with buxom bounty hunters, pudgy princesses, overbearing overlords, and interstellar evangelists…while still keeping Rex’s martini glass filled.

I love Rex.  I kind of wanted to hate him, but he’s just so…interesting.  Here is an apt description from his side-kick Sasha:

It’s more likely that he’s somehow developed a delicately counterbalanced syndrome of mental illnesses that have somehow conspired to keep him alive up until now.  

That can probably describe most of my family.  Anyway, Rex is a walking disaster.  And he gets himself into tangle after tangle.  The way that his mind works, always trying to see the next con, always trying to save himself, he is such a well-developed character.

I also appreciate how Mr. Kroese made a robot come alive.  Despite some of her programmed issues, like being unable to think independently, she is extremely well-developed and real.  She follows Rex throughout the galaxy, through hair-brained scheme after scheme and is most often his savior.  The plot twist at the end of the book cements this notion.

Ahh…the plot twist.  Very clever.  I didn’t see that one coming, and I read CONSTANTLY.  It was truly refreshing.  It wasn’t something that I ever expected and it was glorious.

In most of these types of books, I love reading about the things that the writers come up with.  It’s sci-fi, so it can be anything.  But with Mr. Kroese, he makes it laughable, hilarious even, as Rex explains:

DNA scrambling is the worst.  Last time I had an ear growing between my shoulder blades.  People acted like they didn’t notice it, but I could hear them talking behind my back.

And I have to mention the obvious references to the epic space tale for the ages.  That shall not be named for fear of litigation.  I have read Mr. Kroese’s “memoir” of sorts, The Force is Middling in this One, and it is pretty obvious that he has an obsession with a galaxy far, far away.  And of course it bleeds into this work:

“We’re just checking out a disturbance!” yelled Fingers.  “A disturbance?”  the voice called back.  “What kind of disturbance?” “With the floors!” hollered Fingers.  “Did you say there’s been some kind of disturbance in the floors?”

Sometimes the references made me roll my eyes, but they were hilarious.  And I’m sure that there are several references I missed.

Overall, a great read, very funny, very witty, I loved it.  Highly recommended as with all of Mr. Kroese’s work.

Interview: Christine Emmert author of The Nun’s Dragon and Lilith

Awhile back, I went out of my normal, if eclectic, comfort zone and read The Nun’s Dragon and novella Lilith by Christine Emmert.  They are both sort of out of my zone because I have never really read about dragons before, and I try to stay away from anything related to the Catholic church.  Lilith, I never really knew much about.  But one of my favorite authors, Stant Litore, asked me to read it and review it.  I’m glad I did.

Christine kindly responded to questions I sent her via email:

1. When did you first become interested in the legend of LILITH?
      Actually in the 60s there was a book called LILITH that was the fictional story of a women in the mental hospital who was a seductress to everyone – even those who were supposed to heal her.  It was written by JR Salamanca.  It was then my curiousity was awakened as to the mythological inspiration for the character.  I discovered one aspect then of the LILITH story, but as I read further I found Lilith has many faces and proceeds Eve as the first woman in the Creation legend.  Today she is a figure of multiple personalities — some good and some not.  I chose the more traditional idea that she wanted to eat the children from all the women who did not follow her example of saying “no” to a traditional role.
Marsha Norman, the playwright, told playwrights to write about what they fear most.  Every woman’s greatest fear is probably the loss of her child.  I found that element of Lilith the most frightening, and so I wrote about it.
2.  The wedding vow of “being shackled to a naked beating heart” is so extreme.  It is shocking.  What did you mean by that?
My heroine who is trying to write her thesis about the many faces of Lilith is a dark person.  Her husband seems to be
a man in love with her inspite of.  Her use of that wedding vow is representative of the drama of the heroine and her fierce commitment to what she loves. She isn’t easy on others or herself. She asks extreme commitment.
3.  How did you pair a nun and a dragon for THE NUN’S DRAGON?
My story started to be about just the nun .  I envisioned it as a murder mystery about the finding of her body when she ran away from the convent.  The convent being her place of safety. In the unfolding of the story I suddenly had a dragon turn up. The dragon’s friendship with her is one of the elements that makes her start to question her place in her world.  Once he was there I could not dislodge him or belittle him.  He became the central motivator in the story.  Like many a person I am fascinated by creatures from mythology.
4. The themes of feminity and sin feature prominently in both stories.  Was it intentional?
In a male dominated society it’s hard to separate the two.  Women are placed below men in many cultures, and their
inate desire to rise above such subservience is often interpreted as sin. I am a deep feminist.  I cannot view women without viewing their strengths and in many cases their talents that were left to rot while they were judged in very narrow roles.
Certainly in THE NUN’S DRAGON the Church of the time placed women as there to support men of the cloth.  By that time The Gospel of Mary Magdalene had been deeply buried as it showed a woman equal to the other disciples.
Sin is the blame we put on others for what we have wrought.  I want a sinless world like so many people.  It’s hard to overcome perceptions though that have existed for thousands of years.
5. What dragons of literature did you use to create Wyver?
A Wyvern is a medieval concept where the dragon has a specific look in all the visual renderings….the front claws are attached to wings, and the powerful back legs.  Some purists would not even consider a wyvern a dragon, but wyverns share the same dragon qualities of making people fear them, and their liberty to move through the skies.  I wanted to make this frightening image a character of sensitivity and beauty.
6.  What did you use to make the convent come alive?  The atmosphere is horrific.
Convents were often horrific places where young women were dumped off for whatever strange reason.  Often though beauty happened inspite of the motives.  If you research middle ages life you will find much of it was horrific.  When the people did not make the horror themselves, it was made with disease and natural cirucmstances of famine, flood, fire.
I have been in circumstances with other people that are close. Theatre often fosters an artificial closeness.  People react as they do everywhere, with love or hate or indifference. And alot of ego. Many of the nuns in my story were in awe of Sister Agnes Dei, but they could not save her.
7. The chronology of the story is not linear.  You go back and forth giving us little pieces.  Is this something you planned and if so why?
I often do this in writing.  Starting in the middle or close to the end and then going back and forth.  I find that is how we find out events in life.  Sometimes we think we know what is happening only to discover later things turn out differently from events we did not know at the time.  I think this method of story telling makes for a deeper story where the tale could have gone many different ways.
8.  The book is highly critical of the Catholic Church.  Was that your intent?
I am critical of a church that holds so much power and influence without the compassion Jesus preached.  Perhaps this new Pope will succeed in reminding people of tolerance and joy.  However I have several dear friends and even relatives who are committed Catholics.  And they are also deep Christians. I do not mean to suggest that they are flawed.  Good people exist in all religions.  The Church is changing, but in the medieval world it did countenance much brutality.  It excluded many people who did not want to embrace this way of life as sinners.  That was cruel and deserves to be criticized. Remember that one of the characters says there has to be a deeper love than Christian love itself or we are all lost.
9.  How did you approach the love story between the nun and the dragon without making it campy or downright bestial?
These were two beings who reached across the species to form a friendship that was inviolable.  They did not ask for this affection to come to them, but they understood it was more important than surface rules.  I think writing about real love which was not especially something that could be solved romantically over the long term is one of the most bittersweet kinds of writing.  They were both outcasts, but refused to cast out each other.  I find that admirable.
Christine is a writer, actress, director and educator who has lived a long life on this earth. She holds a Masters in Humanities from the University of Colorado where she lived for twenty-three years. Now her life is re-settled in the woodlands of Pennsylvania where she was born.
Presently she works in the Outreach Program for Hopewell Furnace National Park where her play FROM OUT THE FIERY FURNACE (a one-woman piece about women in the ironworking industry of the area in the 1800s) has been touring for the last four years.  She also has other dramatic pieces that are seen throughout the United States.  This summer she is appearing in her own work, FRAGILE FREEDOM, about the Suffragist movment at the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester.  Her blog “Writing Across the Genres” does just that and is found at  christineemmert.wordpress.com.  Christine loves the power of words.  Her newest project is THE TINY MONK taken from an idea she had on her visit to Thailand this last February.

 

 

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