Follow By Email!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Allesandra's Bequest - R.M. Fraser

 Who doesn't love music? (If you answered 'I don't' than may I ask what planet you are from?)

Do you sing? Play in a band? Play an instrument? Kick it at Karaoke? Sing in the shower? Blast music whenever you can?

Ask anyone who knows me well (or not so well) and you will find I love music. I love singing, I love listening (dancing, working out, cleaning house, driving car) to my favorite artists and songs. I even make up songs and parody lyrics off the top of my head. (Move over Weird Al, my PMS song is amazing and a Christmas Jingle for a morning show won me a prize!)
I'm extremely guilty of using music to express myself. (Oh you do it too!) One of my many examples (if I gave you them all this blog post would be a novel!) is that when I was a teenager I'd developed the habit of blasting the Dangerous Minds Soundtrack if I was in a rotten mood. (Apparently underneath this diva-like exterior is a gansta rapper? Should I invest in a diamond grill?) My family took note of this. Several years later, I was playing it in my car when my sister opened the door to get in, she heard the music, hesitated and asked 'Oh-Oh who are you pissed at? What's wrong?' (Well, HELLO to you too!)
Needless to say, I wasn't mad that particular day, I was just feeling nostalgic for the 90's. Scaring my sister was just a plus!

Goofing Off! My cousin and I rapping to 'Who Said We're Whack?' by The Lonely Island.

Music is soothing for the soul, but did you know if can also inspire books to be born?

Introducing my latest read: Allesandra's Bequest

 What drew me to accept the review for Allesandra's Bequest was not just the subject matter, but the added element of music! The chapters actually revolve around song lyrics that author R.M. Fraser had written for a concept album. Color Me Intrigued! When I think of albums that go along with a story, my mind flashes to the Pink Floyd album 'Dark Side of the Rainbow' and how if you play it along to the movie 'The Wizard of Oz' the music matches what is happening on screen. (If you haven't tried it, you must give it a go! It's cool!)

When it comes to the story of Allesandra and Izz, it is hard to explain without giving the plot away. So here is the gist: We meet the two characters and follow a tragic story about love, loss, suicide, abuse, depression. Dark topics, but with an ending that puts the whole story into perspective. (I loved the ending!!)
Allesandra's has had a lot to deal with in her life and constantly struggles with those emotions. She and Izz have a deep love and connection, but underneath the surface is love enough to help her heal?
As it is a short, it skims the surface of the story, we the reader know what is needed and that is that! The amazing part is, it's still a captivating and deeply emotional read.
With it being so straight to the point, I wonder if the impact would have been the same had it been a lengthy novel with even more insight, character development, plots, and dialogue? I can honestly say, I don't know if it would. Usually my biggest complaint is that 'I want more story!' and I 'could' say that here, but for once I wont. Why? Because I like how 'in your face' and clear the message is. It isn't diluted by all the extras. I feel like this story is a lesson people should read and learn from. The ending is aptly titled 'Only Now Do I Learn and I loved how the author wrote the scene. It was unexpected and I felt it to be a home run as far as delivering a message. It may be a work of fiction, but it really illustrates the point that suicide isn't the answer and explains why.

On another note, I think that R.M. Fraser needs to put these lyrics to music, record and sell the album alongside the book! (Peer pressure) The fact that the reader can create their own tune in their head as they read is fun, but I'd love to hear the author's interpretation.

If you are interested in an fascinating concept and an interesting short. I think you should give Allesandra's Bequest a try!

Here are some links for you to check out!

R.M. Fraser's Author's Page

Author Blog: The Fraser File

After reading Allesandra's Bequest, I was itching to ask the author a few questions about his book, upcoming novel, and about his work spreading awareness about his life as a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults) I think everyone needs to hear what he has to say, and I am happy to help spread awareness by introducing R.M Fraser to you. Please read on to learn more!

                            **AUTHOR INTERVIEW**

Me:   One of the things that intrigued me about your work is the concept. What inspired you to take your song lyrics and turn them into a short story?

R.M. Fraser: Honestly it was just a random thing. Back in my musician I played in a heavy metal/hardcore band. As a band, we took a very collaborative approach to writing our music. Any member of the band could come up with something and if we liked it, it would build. Towards the end of my run with Bedlam, I had written Allesandra's Bequest (Just the song). It never really got to the band before we split up, so it just sat in my head for a while. I continued to write poetry and music, and one day realized that a lot of what I had was fairly dark like Allesandra's Bequest was. After looking them over it just kind of hit me that they were all somehow related. That's when I thought of the concept album. So from there I wrote new music, lyrics, etc, and was able to put the album together in my head. It never got recorded due to lack of funds/resources. From there I eventually turned into an epic poem of sorts, where there was narrative verse around the song lyrics. I was never sold on the format, and decided to try a short story narrative. I felt it worked a lot better this way, and at the same time I had discovered indie publishing in the ebook area. All I needed was to put in some time, so I did. If there was any inspiration to draw from on the overall creation of the project, it was really Pink Floyd's TheWall album. I love that album and the story it tells. I guess I just went from there and changed it to a literary format. It's my first attempt at writing anything beyond music and poetry that I have published.
Me: Allesandra’s Bequest is bittersweet and deals with such sad topics of abuse and suicide. For a short story I felt you capture the tone and emotion with a passion. Who or what is your muse?
Did you ever consider taking the concept further and writing a longer novel?

R.M. Fraser: I'm not sure there was a muse for this. i think my thoughts were just often dark in that period of my life and aspects of suicide/grief and loss were on my mind frequently. I don't mean that I ever felt suicidal myself. I didn't. But there were a lot of teenage suicides where I grew up, and I had a lot of friends who were victims of abuse. I guess it was just around me a lot? Tough to put my finger on. As for writing a longer novel, i never really considered it with Allesandra's Bequest. The nice part about keeping it a short story is that it's more true to the original idea of the concept album. By not filling in all the blanks I can leave a lot more for the reader to infer on his/her own. Music is 100 percent that way, and I feel a novel would get rid of that element. I couldn't picture a story as unique as Allesandra's Bequest is in the way it was created to really be attempted as a novel, and especially as my first one.

Me: You suggest that the readers read the lyrics to their own ‘melody’, what genre of music did you have in mind while writing them?

R.M. Fraser: The genres are all over the place. Tracks range from heavy metal, pop, rock, mellow acoustic, almost folk. I think that gives you an idea. Try taking Tool, Pink Floyd, original Guns N Roses, The mellow side of Black Label Society, some alternative, Toad the Wet Sprocket-ish? I may have just screwed your mind up even more.

Me: You mention that you are a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and your next work will reflect that. Can you share with my readers about the awareness you are creating, and can you describe your next book concept?

R.M. Fraser: Being a CODA is something I cherish dearly. My parents are/were culturally deaf, meaning they used American Sign Language to talk with us growing up. It made be bilingual, and I was signing before I could speak. At home I was always in the Deaf world, but with my other relatives and friends from school, I was in the regular hearing world. They are quite different places to be in many respects. The cultural norms and standards are somewhat different, and every hearing person who didn't know anything about Deaf people were always asking me questions about it. I've never let go of my own Deaf identity, and I guess that's what makes me a pure CODA. Transitioning from music and poetry into short stories and novels has also prompted me to take my knowledge of Deaf culture and make it more accessible to hearing people who know nothing about it, but have those questions. There are a lot of myths about Deaf people that need to be put to rest. Deaf people are also a very oppressed minority. It's really not much different from racism or sexism, or any other discriminatory 'ism' you can think of. The term Deaf people have for this is called Audism. I write a lot about it on my blog in hopes that hearing people who read it will have a better understanding of Deaf people. That's the awareness part. If more people are aware, then I believe it lessens the amount of Audism in the world.

My next book, and first novel, is really a mostly truth based story on my family, with a focus on myself being in both worlds as a CODA. There is heavy focus on my parents' childhoods as well, because it tells more of the stories of how Deaf people become who they are and how Audism impacts everything. From a CODA standpoint, being in two worlds has never been easy, and there's a struggle there worth delving into as well. There are tons of stories from our lives as a family that I feel can make a significant impression on any potential reader, and my goal is to make this entertaining and informative. This book is being written as a fictional style novel, but mostly everything in it truly happened from one person's perspective or another. Most books from CODAs are biographical. I love reading them, but felt this might be a good way for my CODA story to me "re-mixed", if you will. Up to this point, the only thing I have published related to anything Deaf outside of my blog is a poem entitled "Pride", from my ebook, Shadow Boxer, and other poems. It's about my father and what he meant to me after losing him to a sudden stroke 4 years ago. So really, this novel will be a tribute to my parents, to Deaf people (hopefully), and to CODAs everywhere.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Factory Bride by Elayne Chantrell

Every now and than life throws a curve ball your way. It's up to you as an individual to decide if you are going to let it make you or break you.

When sad or terrible things happen, what do you do to stay strong? Do you have people to support you? Are you lucky enough to have family and friends that you can lean on?
What if you were in the position of having no one?
Imagine yourself completely ostracized because of a single event and your life spins wildly out of control. How would you survive?

My next book is not for the faint of heart. It's an incredibly gut-wrenching book about a young lady's single mistake and how she ends up paying for it the rest of her life.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
"Factory Bride is an historical novel containing adult themes. Set in rural and industrial England on to colonial Australia around the turn of the 18th Century.
Factory brides was the name given to female convicts who had been transported to Australia. They could be chosen to marry freemen and earn their own freedom.
Elizabeth, born to a strictly religious family, runs away from home and after giving birth to her illegitimate son, turns to prostitution whilst searching for her errant Uncle James McIver. 
Follow the incredible journey from a small village in Cheshire to becoming one of the richest women in Australia. Experience all Elizabeth's tragedies, sadness and happiness along the way. This story is emotional and courageous, but tainted with mistakes and misfortune"

My Take:

 I have read alot of emotional works of fiction, and by far Elizabeth's story is one of the saddest I have read in recent memory. She struggles to move on with her life after an indiscretion has left her unwed, pregnant and in search of her uncle who 'may' be able to help her after she has become an outcast. (An impulsive move to say the least) She's a naive, unworldly, frightened and desperate girl who just ends up in one awful situation after another.  Ever the dreamer, Elizabeth proves strong in the face of adversity and is determined to make her life better, no matter what it takes. Even if that means taking to the streets as a 'Lady Of The Night'.

For all the tragedy this character suffers, Elizabeth shows remarkable strength. Raised in a deeply religious family, no matter what happens, she keeps her faith in God. Through all the horror and injustice it is a wonder how her character still has her faith and good heart intact. She has a magnificent temper, and when she needs it, she uses it! Other times, she comes off as the way I imagine a young girl in those times would be very sheltered and at times too trusting. She has a tendency to act too quickly and not think her decisions through. Elizabeth is woefully ignorant of certain things, and ends up having to trust in kind strangers with questionable lifestyles. They are her only source of survival. Through all this, she holds onto the fact that one day she will be reunited with her love and life will be as it should.
Her character learns and grows as the story continues. It's hard to fathom how one little mistake can send you on a horrific downward spiral. Every time Elizabeth starts clawing her way out, life kicks her down again.

 I was absorbed in this story and at times I felt like crying. Factory Bride is a novel that as you read you need to remind yourself it is 'just' a book. The author is extremely descriptive in her writing. She paints a vivid picture of what life may have been like in the late 18th century. The despair of the lower classes, the uncleanliness, the attitude of the time period, even the description of the scenes (from moldy walls to filthy clothes)
I appreciated the detail Elayne Chantrell put into this novel. While this is a work of fiction, it  provides a great sense of history while also shining a light on how evil lurks in this world, transcending time.

That said, Factory Bride tackles some of the most disturbing and emotionally draining subject matter you can read. (abuse, rape, molestation) The sad truth that hangs over your head as you read, is knowing these circumstances are just as rampant today as was back then. There are deplorable people out there.That particular knowledge makes the book that much more tragic.The author has set out to create awareness and discussions through Elizabeth's tale.

The story of what became of female convicts who were shipped off from England to Australia was both sad and insightful. I am not as familiar with Australian history as I am with other countries, so I was intrigued by the storyline that takes Elizabeth on that particular journey. I have made note to read further books on the subject, both fiction and non. (You never know when I am going to be on Jeopardy!)

Factory Bride has enormous potential. I did have a few key issues that I felt could raise this book (IMO) from a 3.5 star (I liked it!) to a 4-5 (I loved it!) star rating. I will try to make some of my points with less detail here for the curious who don't want the book ruined for them. (I will post a more detailed spoiler review on Goodreads and link it to this page when it is up)
I wish the ending was slightly different. I did quite enjoy what took place, however I didn't want it to be 'The End'. I wanted some more 'happiness' just to balance out the story a bit.
Another thing to note the novel was heavy on the foreshadowing. While I don't mind it at the start of a novel, there were a few instances along the way where I didn't feel it was needed. I would have much preferred the tale to continue fluidly without the back and forth, forth and back....
I also wouldn't of minded some headings about the date and location where the story jumped around.
The good news is that personally for me, it didn't ruin the story for me or irritate me to the point of setting the book down. I wanted to find out what happens to Elizabeth and the story kept me hooked. I just wanted to see her finally catch a break.

 One part of this novel that I can relate to is being raised in a religious house. My father is a pastor and if you really want to examine my life's journey, I could be described as a 'wayward' preachers kid (I've been called worse!) While reading this I wonder what my life would have been like back than.Would my life have resembled Elizabeth's?

So the big question is, do I recommend this novel? You bet your tushy I do!

This novel is for those looking for a read with no fluff involved. It's captivating. One of the large reasons I am championing Factory Bride is because of the discussions it can and will create. I commend the author for the way in which she (as delicately as one can in this type of story) approaches difficult subject matter. This book can be an eye opener is so many ways.

I have a question for you: When you read a novel as raw and thought provoking as this do you class it simply as entertainment, or are you one to actually look deeper and take lessons away from it realizing the author is sending a strong message?

 It is not my intention to warn anyone away from this novel, but I feel I should strongly advise if you are remotely squeamish about any of the topics listed above (and I know a few of you are) than I invite you to email me and ask questions. I will be happy to help you decide if this novel is right for you.
Both Elayne Chantrell and I believe it is, so please see the Giveaway at the end of this blog for a free e-book copy and a chance to win one of two paperback copies from the author!

To reiterate: If you are 18+ and love a good historical novel, than you should read it. Life isn't all sunshine and roses. Once in a while reading a book that reminds you of that isn't such a bad thing.

I conducted a brief interview with Elayne to follow this post! Be sure to read what she has to say about Factory Bride! 

**It has been pointed out to me that some answers may be viewed as spoilers. I don't think it is that big of a spoiler, but this is a warning for those who may see it as such**

Me:  I had never actually heard the term ‘Factory Bride’ before your novel, I'm having a hard time finding reference to it on the internet. Is this a bit of unknown Australian history, or is this fictional?

Elayne:  Factory Brides are factual my research for this information is exemplified in Robert Hughes, exceptional work...The Fatal Shore.... Everyone should read this if interested in this period.

Me: At times during the novel, with the immense detail I felt immersed in the late 18th Century. How much research was involved in creating your story?

Elayne:  Apart from, The Fatal Shore, I immersed myself in the history. I visited both Liverpool and Australia. As a resident of Warrington myself I had ample opportunity for local research. I enjoy that part of the writing process immensely. After all every day is a school day...I am a great believer in the fact that confident writing is embedded in knowledge.

Me:  You tackle the very disturbing topic of child molestation in your novel. How hard was that for you as an author to write? Why did you feel it was necessary for the plot?

Elayne:  Ah, the molestation....I have to say that I have edited this considerably. I believe it to be the most heinous of crimes. And to that end it was considerably more graphic. My intention was not to award plaudits, but for the crime to be seen for what it was...a product of a sick mind. If that offends anybody I make no apology. To write it, was gut wrenching. On a par with how Elizabeth felt on learning that her son was dead.
  You may ask, if I felt strongly about portraying the act as a description of a character, why I then edited a lot of graphical information out. Simply because I realised that by being so graphic, it will turn readers off message, and that would be sad.

 Me: You mentioned to me that you are working on a new book. What can we anticipate from you next?

Elayne:  My new novel is set between the wars, i.e. 1922 - 1945 ish. It's about an ordinary girl, who is intelligent enough to become an educator, but is born into a family where it is too expensive to learn. That is the overall plot. Intertwined with that is a love triangle which sees Sadie loving a man she can't marry, and marrying a man she doesn't really love or know. As with Factory Bride, this won't be a conventional romance. At this moment, I am about one third in and even I am curious  about what Sadie is going to do.....


                   **** FACTORY BRIDE GIVEAWAY****

This Giveaway is slightly different from the rest! Elayne Chantrell has generously offered 10 E-book copies (via Smashwords) for you. These books are up for grabs by request! First come first serve! Email me at: with the title "Factory Bride E-Book'.

This offer will be removed once all copies are gone.

Don't have an e-reader? Don't worry!!!

Must be 18+ 

Giveaways are International!

                                  ** CONTEST WINNERS!!!**


I also invite anyone who reads this novel to please leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon and let the author know your thoughts!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Voluspa ~A Magical World Review & Giveaway!!

 The 'Fountain of Youth'....A mythical place where one drinks the magical water in hopes of being eternally young and beautiful. Sounds good right? (YES!) Who's in? (Me!) Well too bad, it doesn't exist! (Damn it!)
Eternal Youth is something a lot of us (again ME) long for. We turn to creams, botox injections, plastic surgery, mini skirts, pigtails (eww!)... whatever we can do to look and feel young.
Women hit a midlife crisis and hit on young buff 20-somethings. *cough* Cougar *cough*
Men have a midlife crisis and decide they need not only a hot young tart, but a sports car that matches her lipstick. It's ridiculous.

Why is my babbling about eternal youth relevant to my next review? No, it's not because of my recent birthday (I turned 25 for the 7th time!!)'s because I have a solution to capturing that 'Forever Young' feeling.
It's not a cream! You can't wear or inject it... and it doesn't involve throwing your back out trying to one up your kid with a hoola hoop. (I may have done that once....)

The solution is simple: If you want to feel young, just pick up a whimsical read and get lost in a story written for all ages to enjoy!

My latest read has a Harry Potter edge- Narnia vibe with a Twilight-esq twist! I'd like to welcome you all to the Magical World of Voluspa!

 Here is the book description from

  "Twilight meets Harry Potter Amy, a forlorn fifteen year old girl from NYC, never thought that she would attend school on a magical mountain with wild animals as her classmates and that she would go to a prom on a flying carpet. Its love at first sight when Drake- a shape shifter rescues her from a pre-historic beast and befriends her. Little does she know that Drake’s father is the tyrannical leader who has always wanted Amy and her kind dead. In her struggle to challenge the supremacy in the magical world, she realizes her powers, confronts aspects about herself that she may not be comfortable with, makes lasting friends while excelling in her school - something which she had not been able to do in her human world. All hell breaks loose, as Drake goes missing and Voluspan mercenaries try to hunt Amy down. Amy and her friends use strategic warfare, pit adversaries among themselves and use every last drop of strength, skill and courage as they take on warriors far more ruthless and skilled than themselves. But Amy is in for a rude shock when she finally finds Drake."

 So what did I think?

I really enjoyed this novel! I'm not going to lie, initially when I started reading the first chapter, I found it a bit confusing. I did end up backtracking to re-read things due to the overwhelming amount of information and events.
There were a lot of details to take in (The clans and their powers, characters, locations, beasts, battles etc...) and things happen rather quickly in said chapter. I felt dropped into the story and wished it had eased me in  a bit more gradually.
HOWEVER.... (Here is a lesson) If you find yourself in that particular situation, just keep reading! Things did end up eventually being explained as the novel progressed. You just have to be patient. (I am very glad I kept reading!!)

 As the story continued I fell into a better rhythm and ultimately it became a page turner I couldn't put down.
 After a hard-knock life, and dealing with a recent tragedy and upheaval, Amy is now on a quest to discover her family history and beings a journey of self acceptance as she comes into her own. She embraces Voluspa and it's inhabitants wholeheartedly. With the help of the mysterious Helen, Drake and her new friends Jacek and Amilio, she eases into the Voluspian society and learns to grow her Empath powers. She excels in her exciting new school, making friends and enemies along the way.
Amy also discovers a few secrets that could destroy her if the elders in Voluspa ever found out. Secrets and information she also needs to keep from Drake.

The romance between Amy and Drake while it is similar to Bella and Edward (Twilight) in my opinion it comes off with less sexual tension and more innocence. They have some obstacles to overcome. One very large one is the fact that being from two separate clans, they are forbidden to ever marry. A tough pill to swallow for soul mates. When Drake is captured, Amy doesn't care what it will take. She is determined to save him no matter what.
Naturally we have to wait for the other books to see how their relationship progresses.

There are so many aspects of this novel I feel I could review and chat about, however this could get long or possibly spoil the magic for you. So I will condense it to some highlights:

**I love the people of Voluspa and how they are divided into four separate clans. Each clan has their own unique talents and powers:   
                           Empath - Mind reading & Astral travel
                           Morphus- Shape-shifting
                           Pulchrous -Great Warriors
                           Menden - Healers
 They live in harmony, but with a rule that they are not to inter-marry. 

** I loved the imagination put into the creatures and characters in Voluspa. One of my favorites being the Garden Gnomes. Don't try picking their flowers without permission! Other creatures include Gangrels, Tyrannos, Dream Catchers, Naiad's, Witches, Griots, Sirens, Ogres.. I could go on and on...

** I liked how the authors tackled the subject of humans and Earth in the novel. In it we (Earth-bound) are in another realm, some of our myths and legends mention Voluspa, but naturally we don't pay attention. In Voluspa they are very aware of Earth and while they are more advanced, there are many similarities between the two cultures.

** This book helps illustrate that you never know what a person is going through in their life and why you shouldn't pick on people for being different. A big lesson to draw from it is that like the character Amy, just because you don't fit in with one crowd in one place, doesn't mean you don't fit in with anyone anywhere. As the mother of a child who has encountered bullies, I appreciate this theme and the strong message this book sends.

Like most books I read, I really do wish certain parts of the book had been longer. At times the scenes fast forwarded or jumped a bit when I felt they could have been longer and more descriptive. I also think this particular novel needs an index of characters and creatures or even a map of Voluspa in it's pages for reference. My oldest daughter looked up from reading it and said  'Mom, I wish it had some pictures!'(She would love a few pictures of the strange creatures that show up~ like the Gangrels)

At the end of the day, if you are thinking of botox, or buying a lipstick colored car... let me suggest the easier, more affordable solution to your anti-aging battle: Become a 15 year old again... Hang out with a Morphus Clan member in the city of Bol Holnap, make friends with a Dream Catcher or even take the challenge Herio Mountain...all of this can be accomplished by simply using your Imagination! (Okay, so you will still get old and it wont prevent wrinkles, but hey, you get to read a great and imaginative story out of the deal!) It's a book you and your kids (10+) can enjoy together!

The next installment of this series is due out in November, and I look forward to reading more!! This novel I most certainly will read again... if my daughter ever gives it back to me......

                         **Your Chance To Win A Copy After The Author's Interview!**

Watch the Book Trailer for Voluspa HERE!

Visit Voluspa's Website for more information!

  Sometimes after reading a story, I have some questions I would love to ask the author. Ray East was kind enough to oblige!

Me, Myself and Irene: It's such an imaginative tale, where did you come up with the concept?

Ray East:  I have always wanted to write a fantasy novel. To create a believable magical world was what prompted me to write Voluspa. The concept developed further as I decided upon the major characters and themes of my story.

 Me: There is so much detail and thought put into this novel. How long did it take from the birth of the concept to having it published?

Ray East: I am really glad that you appreciate the detail and thought we put in the novel.
 It took us 7 months from the birth of the concept to getting it published.

Me: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Ray East: I derive inspiration from life - things happening around me, my family and friends, places I visit, old books or movies that I like.

Me: The topic of bullying makes an appearance at times throughout the novel. Amy has had her share of being an outcast and runs into several situations where she is put down by others. Was the anti bullying theme deliberate and do you hope that your readers (especially the younger ones) take away an anti-bullying message from Voluspa?   

Ray East: The message of anti bullying is a deliberate one.  Anybody can be a victim of bullying and it is one of the most difficult challenges faced by our youngsters today. It is important to create strong role models that will inspire the younger generation not only to stand up to bullies but also for the misguided souls who commit this act to think twice before doing it.

Me: How many books are planned for this series?

Ray East: I plan for two more books in this Voluspa series.


                       SARAH S. FROM CALIFORNIA


                       SARAH G. FROM ONTARIO!!! **

         They each won a copy of Voluspa A Magical World!