Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Review: Check, Please!: #Hockey

Title: Check, Please!: #Hockey
Author: Ngozi Ukazu
Page Count: 288
My Rating5 TURTLES: AMAZING read. I loved this book, and it's going on my favorites shelf forever! You must get a copy of this book!

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all... I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur p√Ętissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

Oh my God, you guys, this graphic novel made me FEEL things! I never make audible noises when I’m reading things, I don’t even usually laugh at loud if I’m watching comedy shows, but Check, Please!: #Hockey made me laugh and squee at the sheer adorableness of this story! I read this whole thing in one sitting, which never happens, so you know it’s serious!

If you had told me several years ago that some of my favorite stories would heavily feature non-equestrian sports I would have looked at you funny, but this new trend of sports teammates/colleagues falling for each other has arrived and I am 100% here for it. (I’ve included a list of my other favorite books and TV shows that follow this trend at the end of the review and I hope that you’ll check them out).

Teammate to lover stories though
There is so much I love about this story! The art is super fun and thoughtfully drawn. The characters are also so distinct and memorable – I especially love the adorable and earnest Bitty and the party-bro with a heart of gold Shitty (whose real name we may or may not learn throughout the course of this book). And, of course, the main selling point of this book for me, I loved the romance between Bitty and Jack. What can I say? I’m weak for sweet queer romances, especially of the teammate to lover variety, and since there are not nearly enough of them (yet) each one I find is like finding a rare gem.

Also, huge bonus points to this book for having a badass character with my name, even if 99% people refer to her by her nickname, Lardo.

One thing that catches me a little bit off guard about graphic novels is that they tend to feel rushed to me. Check, Please has a great arc, but I wanted, like, five more hockey games, and ten more Bitty and Jack scenes. I think this is partly due to the fact that this is a compilation of web-comics. If I had read each page as it was initially released and had to wait a while for the next installment I don’t think it would feel rushed at all.

I think this would be especially true since the author runs “Bitty’s” Twitter account, so people’s experience with the story continues between installments (such a smart idea). The advanced copy has a sampling of some of these tweets, but promises that the published version will have many, many more. 

Picture of me trying to figure out how hockey works
The only other small thing that I would have liked to see was an in-depth explanation of how hockey works. Most of the other stories I know of that follow sports team dedicates a section where they just explain how the game works. It feels a bit info-dumpy, but also necessary for someone like me who has very little knowledge about anything sport-related. There were some explanations of how hockey works here and there, but by the end I was still pretty confused. 

And if you’re thinking “Gee, Larissa, if only there were a magical device that you could type ‘how does hockey work’ into and get as detailed an answer as you’d like,” point taken. 

Thank goodness my roommate for the NYU publishing program I’m taking lent me her advanced copy that she picked up at Book Expo, but I will definitely be picking up my own copy when it comes out in September! And if you’re as excited about getting your own copy as I am, you can always pre-order it.
Now that I have been introduced to this wonderful comic, I definitely won’t be patient enough to wait for volume two to come out to find out what happens next. Lucky for me (and all of you) this comic is not only available online, but it’s still ongoing! So there’s plenty more in store for Jack, Bitty, Shitty and all the others. 

More Queer sports romances! 
These are the stories that I couldn’t help but think of while reading Check, Please! Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

Yuri on Ice (TV show)
Fence (comic series)

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Guest Post: Benjamin Appleby-Dean - Author of The Stickman's Legacy

Benjamin Appleby-Dean, author of The Stickman's Legacy, stopped by the Howling Turtle to talk a bit about folklore and fable and how it has influenced his work on this book. Had you heard of any of this fairytale trivia before?

Guest Post
I’ve always been fascinated by stories – not just the actual reading and hearing of them, the beginning-to middle-to end rush, but by the pieces of them and how they fit together. Why we have heroes and villains, antagonists, and protagonists, morals and happy endings or tragedies that can’t be averted.
I tried to write stories of my own almost as soon as I learned to read, starting with simple tales of heroes and monsters – but even then I wondered why the monsters had to lose.
As I grew older and read more widely, I discovered Joseph Campbell and his beat-by-beat formula for heroic journeys. I noticed the similarities in folklore and fable across different continents – the version of Cinderella that goes back to ancient Egypt, the sunken-city myth that persists from Greece to India to China, the enduring archetype of little people living underground that recurs in country after country. I read about the changing of even our best-known modern fairy tales – how the Grimms rewrote their own collections to remove Rapunzel’s pregnancy and switch abusive mothers for stepmothers; how Beauty and the Beast once had elaborate backstories involving rival fairies; how Tom Thumb originally joined King Arthur’s court and battled giants.
Most of all I came to understand how much of what we are is built upon the backs of these persistent narratives – stories informing our language, our relationships, our aspirations, our ideas of good and evil. Stories woven through our basic ideas of self.
What would happen if someone tried to use them as a weapon?
I wanted to write a story about stories – but not in a postmodern, ironic, poking-fun kind of way. I wanted to drill down into how they worked and how they could be made to work. I wanted to see what happened to the survivors. How far an ending could be made to stretch.
Most of all, I wanted to tell the story of a girl who refused to give up.
The first ideas for THE STICKMAN’S LEGACY came to me nearly fifteen years ago. I spent seven years taking the ideas and building on them, trying to fit them together until they made sense. I read up on folk history from every country I could find, spotting new patterns and obscure fragments. I took six months writing a detailed, blow-by-blow plan to make sure my strange, experimental plot actually fitted together and then another two years finishing my first draft of the book.
But as many older, wiser writers will tell you, the first book you write is never any good. 
I wrote other books afterwards – simpler, less ambitious ones. I even got some of my other works into print. Then I came back to my unwieldly first manuscript, finally became aware of my mistakes, and spent another year re-writing it from scratch. I eventually cut out 60,000 words (the length of a short novel in itself!) and was left with leaner, better-paced book – still saying everything I wanted to say, but in 70% of the page count. 
It took me five years to find a publisher for THE STICKMAN’S LEGACY, and it’s still the most complex and ambitious thing I’ve ever tried to write.
I can only hope that some of you find it worth the wait.

About the Book
Mary never knew her father until he died and brought his enemies to her doorstep. Searching his house for answers, she unearths an ancient nightmare and is drawn into a world of corporate magicians, subterranean kingdoms and living architecture, all of whom have history with the Stickman - and their own sinister agendas for his daughter.

As a secret war breaks out across London with her at the centre, Mary finds fragments of her own past resurfacing, and has to understand the true nature of her legacy before it's too late...

Find it on Amazon
Add it on Goodreads
Author's Twitter

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Excerpt: The Colonel and the Bee

Good afternoon book lovers! Patrick Canning, author of The Colonel and the Bee, was kind enough to submit an excerpt from his novel for the Howling Turtle. He describes it as a cross between Around the World in 80 Days and The Wizard of Oz! 

Do you have a favorite book that features hot air balloons? Let me know in the comments!

Excerpt Context
The story takes place in the early 1800's. Beatrix (Bee), has recently escaped a circus where she worked as an acrobat for an abusive ringleader. She has bargained her way aboard a four-story hot air balloon called the Oxford Starladder, or Ox for short. The Ox is owned by a mysterious adventurer known as Colonel Bacchus. In this scene, Colonel Bacchus is teaching Bee to fly the Ox as they travel from Switzerland to Belgium, where the Colonel believes the next clue lies in his search for an elusive criminal. 

“Flying the Ox is much more akin to playing an instrument than operating a machine. Approach the challenge less formally, do so with confidence, and the craft’s perfect obedience will be your reward.”

I lost sight of the burner strap and by accident pulled a vent on the main balloon. We began to rotate and descend with great rapidity. The Colonel allowed me to find the correct cord on my own, and I did so just in time as the Ox nearly scraped a rolling pasture hill, startling a herd of brown Belgian cows enough to sour their milk.

Taking care to avoid the ripping line, I continued to bring the Ox up, searching for the northwest wind. To my chagrin, I sent us southeast, and it took a deft intervention from the Colonel to set us right. Applying the correct pressure on the correct combination of cords in the correct sequence did indeed give him the appearance of an accomplished maestro.

“Skill comes with practice, and northwest can be elusive. Northeast can be downright tempestuous,” he said as if recalling a talented snooker rival.

I readied another question, but the Colonel anticipated me. He held up a gentle hand to stay the incoming query, motioned with both hands downward, indicating I should relax, then gestured to the edge of the Ox.

So worried I’d been about that morning’s lesson, I’d hardly taken a moment to observe our environment. I joined the Colonel at the railing, and became lightheaded with wonder. The full effect of flight had been disguised by darkness the previous night, and now, in the maturing light of dawn, I beheld a world transformed by perspective: rivers and mountains were maps come to life, trees were seas of leaves that shimmered emerald in the breeze, even birds flew at a height far below the Ox, moving like schools of fish in currents of wind.

“Toast my bloomin’ eyebrows,” I mumbled, forgoing any attempt at eloquence. “I didn’t know... I couldn’t have imagined...”

“Wonderful, isn’t it? From this height, we’re permitted to see plainly the orchestrations of daily life, rank with crisscrossing motives and the clutter of needless haste. Up here in the rarefied air we are weightless in cool √¶ther, unspoiled by the odour and noise of man’s desires far below.”

We stood side by side, watching the scene in silence, until something in the distance stole the Colonel’s gaze.

“There. Antwerp on the horizon. Drink your leaf juice if you must.”

By now, all of the Manx were flying in a loose halo about the Ox, gently displacing the Belgian mist we floated in as they dove and twisted as birds in play.

“They have such charm and spirit,” I said.

“They detect my excitement. This visit could prove fruitful in our search for the criminal. He’s been most elusive thus far.”

“Do you know the murdered party?”

The Colonel’s face fell a note, but he recovered quickly.

“I’m interested in the criminal.”

“To bring him to justice?” I gulped my tea. “For this or a past transgression?”

“There is plenty to choose from. It is enough for you to know I seek an audience with the man.”

“He has committed other crimes?”


“Is he dangerous?”

Most certainly.”

I finished my tea as the green vegetation and black soil of tilled fields shifted to the red brick and grey stone of buildings. Antwerp’s harbour introduced itself to the nose long before the eyes.

The Colonel inhaled deeply.

“Have you been?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“A bastion of crime and seafood, how I adore this city. I apologise as it’s unlikely we’ll have time for a proper tour. Perhaps a return under less harried circumstances. Unfurl those ropes there, won’t you?”

The spiderweb of roadways below passed ever faster as we descended. I let drop a collection of heavy ropes over the side of the Ox as the Colonel set her down in a rather regal park. Despite the posh surroundings, there was an air of danger. Apparently, the Colonel felt it too.

“No chance we’re deflating here,” he said. “Down the steps with you. Help secure us.”

Author Website
IG: @catpanning

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Guest Post: L.K.D. Jennings - Author of Mark of the Conifer

Today I'd like to welcome L.K.D. Jennings, author of Mark of the Conifer, to the Howling Turtle! Mark of the Conifer is xenofiction (a book told through the perspective of a non-human, in case you were needing to look it up like I did) and follows the story of a young dinosaur, Sunstrike, as he sets out on a quest against an evil tyrant whose regime carries a mysterious magic: fire.

As someone who went through a HUGE dinosaur phase as a young child, this book's premise intrigued me immediately. Mark of the Conifer is accompanied by many impressive illustrations done by the author, who was kind enough to write a post about the process of bringing these works of art to life for the novel and provided some stunning samples, too!

Guest Post
In the fall of 2007, I saw my first real dinosaur bones at the Utah Museum of Prehistoric Life. It's an award-winning museum; I highly recommend it. But it was the real inspiration for Mark of the Conifer. I had my sketchbook with me and was trying to draw everything I could see. A Brachiosaurus skeleton stood on the first floor, and you could go to the second floor to look it in the face. There's really no way to capture the feeling of humble wonder dinosaurs instill in you, but I sure tried in my book.

I studied illustration and was a video game artist once upon a time. My background has always been in art, but I wanted to do a book like James Gurney's Dinotopia: realistic creatures rendered in paint. It was a challenge, to be sure, but I thoroughly enjoyed taking it on. A lot of my dinosaur knowledge had gaps in it, because with the onset of being a teenager I no longer read about dinosaurs. This was around 1995, right around the time feathered dinosaurs were being discovered and confirmed. As a kid, there had been debate about whether dinosaurs were cold-blooded or warm-blooded. Coming back to the table, I discovered the paleontological world overflowed with all kinds of brand new knowledge: there was no longer any debate that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, living birds were reclassified as Archosaurs and that technically made them dinosaurs, dinosaurs had feathers and chemically mapped colors and everything from soft-tissue to pregnant specimens had been found. Amazing stuff!

There's a scene in the first Jurassic Park movie where Dr. Alan Grant says of the velociraptor "No wonder these guys learned to fly." And everyone laughs at him like he's being silly, oh that Alan Grant. Well, in truth, all the way back when Huxley actually coined the term "dinosaur" it was noted that there were over two hundred anatomical similarities between dinosaurs and living birds.
wanted my book to educate without appearing overwhelmingly so, but scientific accuracy was important to me. The species in my book all lived at the same time, and I tried to render the dinosaurs based on the most accurate and up-to-date information. I think dinosaurs are hard to visualize on your own; if someone says "Imagine a velociraptor" you're probably going to think of the much-too-big, featherless iterations from Jurassic Park. The movie tried to update the mainstream knowledge of dinosaurs, and I tried to do the same thing with my book. More than twenty years later, I hope my illustrations help people see the new science and get excited about it.

My artistic process was fairly structured: I would gather reference information from reputable sources, including fossil renditions. I did some studies of big name artists: Peter Schouten, James Gurney, and Luis Rey. Then everything started with sketches to get the right pose and the right action. I used a projector to blow up the thumbnail and transfer it onto bristol board. From there I used good-old-fashioned pencil to render the drawing. I then scanned the lines into my computer, using digital paint for the next step. I used my tablet and several digital painting programs to bring light, shadow, and color to the drawings. Most people think digital programs do all the work for you, but that's not true at all. My illustrations are all but painted traditionally in technique: every brushstroke and scale was done by me. There is a nice, luminous quality to digital media that I thought would translate well to being read on digital devices like a Kindle.

I raised funds through Kickstarter and was able to have complete freedom in my layout and design. It took ten years for the book to be written, illustrated, edited, and polished, but it's finally here. I hope that whatever form you read it in, you enjoy it.

Social media: 


Friday, June 15, 2018

Spotlight: Silver Slay - A New YA Fantasy Novel by Adelaide

About the Book
Ingrid, sixteen, orphan, the sole bread winner of the house that she lives in with her mare, has gotten herself into a dangerous task‐regicide of a tyrant. She is set to do it against all odds, with immense nerves and some brains. She has to reap a little aide of dark charm from the infamous forest of dead. However, the end of the king doesn't seem like end of her troubles.

About the Author
Adelaide is a 23 old IT employee, but doesn't believe plain programming and coding world is 
meant for her. All the sight of keyboard does to her is bring out new characters and new stories to life. That was how Silver slay happened. Starting off as a romance writer, she found her interest gradually drifting to the fantastic side of the literary world. Silver slay is her first published work. It is the first in the Queen of steel series.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Renegade

Today Mallory McCartney and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover and an exclusive content for RENEGADE, her new Adult Fantasy Romance which releases July 3, 2018! Check out the awesome cover and enter the giveaway!

On to the reveal! 

Title: RENEGADE (Black Dawn 0.5)
Author: Mallory McCartney
Pub. Date: July 3, 2018
Publisher: Clean Reads Publishing
Formats: eBook
Pages: ?
Find it: Goodreads

See where Black Dawn Rebellion was born in this prequel!

Title: BLACK DAWN (Black Dawn #1)
Author: Mallory McCartney
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Clean Reads Publishing
Pages: 352
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Find it: Amazon, B&N, Goodreads

Emory Fae enjoys leading a quiet, normal life. That is until two mysterious, and handsome soldiers show up at her apartment, and the life she knew is instantly whisked away. Memphis Carter and Brokk Foster come from the magical and war ridden world of Kiero, and bringing Emory back she will discover she is the long lost heir to the Royal Line and is thrown into the Black Dawn Rebellion with a dynamic role to ignite the rebels and reclaim her throne.

With both men being darkly woven in her past Emory uncovers hidden secrets, a power held long dormant, and will soon realize there are worse things than supernatural humans, love, loss, betrayal, and a Mad King.

Some things are better left in the shadows.

Exclusive Excerpt!

Exhaling, the prince took him off guard as he lifted his eyebrow. "What I don't understand is how the Faes have achieved such loyalty. What did they do?"

He chewed his bottom lip as he hopped over a fallen tree trunk. He looked to Marquis. "They were the dreamers in a time when culture, creativity, and equality were being butchered. The Academy was the foundation of that dream, for desolates, for the people with weaker abilities. For everyone. The people of Kiero followed Roque because they can't fear him, they can only admire him. How brave he was for standing up to his father, for breaking free of his reign to start his own."

Marquis chewed his lip. "It sounds like you have a different opinion of him."

He threw out his hands. "I was born at the Academy. Raised in the Academy. Who am I to doubt the intentions of the Faes? They are practically family."

Shrugging, Marquis cooed, "Sometimes it is the ones closest to us that betray us first."

About Mallory:

Mallory McCartney currently lives in London, Ontario with her husband and their two dachshunds Link and Lola. Black Dawn is her debut novel, the first in a series. When she isn't working on her next novel or reading, she can be found dog grooming, book shopping and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops. 

Giveaway Details:
One lucky winner will receive an eBook of RENEGADE, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Spotlight: Pendulum Heroes

About the Book:
Melvin Morrow has become a barbarian warrior maiden. Will he be able to escape this new, dangerous world and the chainmail bikini he foolishly chose as his armor or will he and his friends be stuck living their lives as their game avatars?

Melvin's a teenage boy not used to being ogled or the real world consequences of wearing a steel bikini. But the real world has shifted... him, his friends Jason and Rich, and his big brother Mike are stuck in character, in a place where danger doesn't lurk because it prefers to boldly stride out in the open.

Mages import game players like Melvin via the Rift Pendulum. The reason: the work's suicidal and pendulum heroes are insanely powerful. Usually. Melvin and his friends can be, too, if they're in the right emotional state to trigger into character. Melvin's a one-man, uh, one warrior maiden army when he's angry but anger's hard to find with all that mortal danger striding around everywhere.

The road back home's at the end of a suicidal quest. Melvin better find something to rage about... because being genre-savvy only gets you so far.

Pendulum Heroes, James Beamon's debut novel, is an adrenaline fueled adventure for anyone who's spent a little too much time on the character creation screen instead of playing the game, those of us who have thought just how godmode we'd be with mage power, but mostly it's for all of us who have wondered who the heck installs a portal to another world in a craptastic wardrobe. Fans of Ernest Cline and Scott Meyer will find a lot to love in this new series.

Author Bio:
James Beamon is a science fiction and fantasy author whose short stories have appeared in places such as Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, Apex, Lightspeed and Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. He spent twelve years in the Air Force, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and is in possession of the perfect buffalo wings recipe that he learned from carnies. He lives in Virginia with his wife, son and attack cat. Currently he's cutting back on the addictive habit of penning short stories to focus on writing books. Pendulum Heroes is his debut novel. James is serious about the attack cat... do not point at it. He invites you to check out what he's up to at

Check out out on Amazon

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Gifts for Dad!

Still looking for a gift for Dad?
Here are a few book and book-related ideas that he might like!

Lincoln in the Bardo
This was one of my favorite books that I read last year, so I find myself recommending it to people a lot.

If your dad is at all a history buff like mine is, this might be a different but interesting alternative to the historical biographies that are likely your go-to for book related gifts. This Man Booker Prize winner blends historical fiction with Buddhist mythology, creating one of the most unique and breathtaking books I've read in a long time.

If Dad likes audiobooks, this is my top pick! The star-studded cast has a world record for largest number of narrators. The audiobook also won Audiobook of the Year at the last Audie Awards!

To read the full description or purchase the book, click the banner below.

If your dad likes science fiction and/or the book The Martian (or the movie with Matt Damon) Artemis is a good bet! It is written by the same author, but get this: instead of potatoes on Mars, this book has a heist on the moon!

Artemis has an incredibly clever plot, well thought-out and explained logistics for how a lunar colony would work, and a wisecracking, sarcastic narrator - it's impossible to put down!

And although not award winning, the audiobook for Artemis is also very well done and is narrated by Rosario Dawson of the Netflix Marvel TV show franchise (Claire Temple) and Rent (Mimi Marquez).

The President is Missing
This recent release is selling like hotcakes right now -  it is currently #3 on Amazon's charts!

A co-endeavor between Bill Clinton and James Patterson, this book fills the specific, double-whammy niche in dad-approved reading selections of being both about a president and being written by a president, what could go wrong with that combination?

It may have only been out for a little over a week, but the reviews so far have been overwhelmingly positive. This political thriller could be the perfect vacation read for Dad this summer!

Until June 15, Amazon is taking $20 off select Kindles. This is the perfect gift for a dad who loves to read, but who might be very particular in his reading selections. Or for a dad who is such a voracious reader that gifting a single book would only give him one evening's worth of reading material!

This deal is going on for Kindle PaperWhite too!

Kindle Travel Gear
Does the dad who already has all the books and e-readers in the world also have a way to carry all that reading material around?

Amazon has an all-new line of Kindle travel gear accessories ranging from sturdy totes to carry all dad's books to backpacks (to carry even more books) and travel tags to mugs and water bottles!

You can browse the full collection by clicking the banner below!

Finished shopping already? What did you get your dad for Father's Day?

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Spotlight: The Unicorn Tree

About the Book
A teenage girl whose brother is lost at sea…the diary of a nineteenth-century woman…and the special place that binds them.

Lisa Duncan, a seventeen-year-old high school senior, has an assignment to tour historic Mirabelle Manor, a large estate built in 1850 by a sea captain for his wife. During the tour, she begins to suspect that Mirabelle’s ghost is watching her. One of the items on display is a diary, open to a passage about going to a place called the unicorn tree to watch for ships. This appeals to Lisa whose brother is currently sailing across the Atlantic on a commemorative voyage. When news arrives that his ship is lost at sea, her interest in the diary deepens as the past and present lead her to discover what happened.

About the Author
Cynthia Collins writes stories that combine the past and present through historical settings with the aid of ghosts and family. She is a two-time award winner of The Storyteller magazine's People's Choice Award - 1st Place Fiction. She had every intention of pursuing a classical music career but, after moving to New York City, spent her spare time watching the ships in New York Harbor. This led to volunteering, sail training, and employment at various maritime historic sites. As a result, she has written both fiction and numerous non-fiction articles about historic house museums and tall ships. 

She is from Jefferson City, Missouri, graduated from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri with a Bachelor of Music, received a certificate from the Salzburg Universitat Summer School in Salzburg, Austria, and studied music composition at Mannes School of Music in New York. 

Visit her website
Follow her on Twitter
Follow her on Facebook
Buy the book on Amazon

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.