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*** BOOK GIVEAWAY ***   

Description From Goodreads:
Ezra Hawkins is going to change the world.

Although, honestly, there isn’t that much world left to change. After the Great War that nearly destroyed the Earth, mankind has been reduced to a single city: Sanctuary. Hidden from the ravages of the world, the last scions of humanity have eked out their existence through hard work and ingenuity, managing survival, maybe even a little happiness.

But Ezra Hawkins, last heir to the legacy of wormhole technology, will show them something that no human in over a thousand years has known: Hope.

This is a story of science against magic, of people who can bend the elements to their will and the shadowy forces that police them. And most of all, Wind-Scarred tells the tale of a young man desperate to learn the true nature of the past, and of a planet that has its own ideas about the future.

WIND-SCARRED, by Sky Corbelli
Available on Amazon

Review: **** 4 Stars
What a great start to a trilogy! I enjoyed Wind-Scarred immensely, though it did have a few hiccups, including a meandering plot and a romance that lacked finesse. But the overall story was good, the concept unique, and the characters incredibly well-developed. I’m looking forward to reading book 2, Water-Seer, now available on Amazon.

Characters: ***** 5 Stars
Ezra is brainy yet courageous, a scientist born into a family that controls the knowledge of wormhole technology. Swept into a secret society, Ezra handles himself with aplomb, but he’s still young, and a bit naive, especially in the ways of women. Galois “Gal” Doe arrives on scene as a party girl, but ultimately recruits Ezra to become an agent. She’s spunky and fun, and I wish we’d seen more of her throughout the story. The other characters, including Ezra’s “research team” each had their own personalities, which came through beautifully in the novel and added to the warmth and camaraderie in Ezra’s world.

Plot: *** 3 Stars
The author did a great job tying together science fiction and fantasy themes, creating a complex world with multiple moving parts, including layers of foreshadowing that carry through the entire novel and into book 2 (I hope, anyway!). Unfortunately, that’s also the story’s downfall, as the plot lacks focus. Some parts seemed to drag, while in others I wanted more detail. There were several sections that didn’t seem to be necessary to advance the story, leaving me feeling like I just had to get through them. However, the action, when it occurred, was well-drawn and kept me engaged, and the overall story was interesting and fun.

Setting: **** 4 Stars
I really liked the juxtaposition of the futuristic city with the rural anti-technology countryside. It made for a very unique story and helped pull through the dead periods of the plot.

Romance: ** 2 Stars
I loved the characters of Gal and Ezra, and they could have been a fun couple. Unfortunately, the romance was significantly under-developed. Gal and Ezra are thrown together, and for a very long time I thought that Gal was just toying with Ezra for some political, or even nefarious reason. She’s flirty and coy, but it felt, at best, like a surface infatuation, and the romance fell flat.

Genre – Futuristic Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars
WIND-SCARRED is a unique cross-genre novel that does a great job bringing together both science-fiction and fantasy themes. I loved the “elementals” and the conflict between the futuristic technology and the rural, almost medieval, outside world.

In honor of my return to the blog, I’ll be giving away one Kindle copy of Wind-Scarred.  To enter, leave a comment with your name and do one of the following by May 4, 2012:

  1. Sign up to follow Enter The Portal via email or your own WordPress blog (box at right).
  2. Follow Enter The Portal via Twitter (@entertheportal).

Make sure to indicate in the comment which way you’re following! One random winner will be selected from all entries and announced on the blog shortly after the comment deadline.

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Description From Goodreads:

The Warden Threat is a lighthearted tale of looming war, subversion, and a terrible magical weapon.

Prince Donald, the idealistic third son of the king of Westgrove, believes he may be the only one able to protect his country from an invasion spearheaded by an ancient and massive stone warrior known as the Warden of Mystic Defiance. Donald, unfortunately, is woefully unprepared. His only real understanding of such things comes from his reading of adventure stories, which he soon realizes understate the realities and hardships of such quests. His guide, Kwestor, a competent but jaded ranger, feels seeking adventure is the same as asking for trouble. Donald finds both as well as an answer he never expected.

THE WARDEN THREAT, by D.L. Morrese
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: **** 4 Stars
THE WARDEN THREAT is a lighthearted epic fantasy parody with a science fiction twist that kept me engaged and entertained from page one.  The journey starts with Donald’s initial foray into the wider world to “find out about the commoners”, as ordered by his loving but overprotective mother, but proceeds through the country of Westgrove and into the border of neighboring nation Gotrox, home of the stoutfolk.  Despite the epic fantasy trappings, the story is humorous and fun, clearly not taking itself seriously as Donald struggles to define himself as a hero of the realm and stop an impending war with Gotrox.

Here are a few choice quotes from early in the book:

“Adventurers did not poop.  Well, they did, but they certainly never talked about it.”

“The gonds, the domesticated ones that could be ridden anyway, could, admittedly, travel long distances and carry a great deal of weight, but these assets paled when you considered their considerable lack of speed, an intellect approximately equal to that of overcooked asparagus, and their frequent flatulence.”

Characters: **** 4 Stars
Donald is idealistic, young, inexperienced, and naive, but he tries hard to do what is right and make a difference in his father’s kingdom.  He’s not a dumb or ignorant young man, he’s simply been sheltered from the real world for far too long.  Traveling with Kwestor, the unenthusiastic and pragmatic ranger, gives Donald a new perspective as he struggles to learn how to be a man.  Kwestor acts as Donald’s mentor and advisor, albeit in a somewhat closemouthed way, and tries to help Donald throughout his journey. It doesn’t take long in the story before they meet up with Muce, a sword for hire that’s a bit of a simpleton and obsessed with potatoes.  Muce provides the comic relief during their travels, but the author does a good job of reining him in when appropriate to keep the reader, and I suppose the other characters, from getting irritated with his long-winded anecdotes.

Plot: *** 3 Stars
Though humorous, the plot had a tendency to drag at times, slowing down the read. I wanted more action and danger, even silly danger, to keep the story moving. There was a lot of walking, and a lot of staying at inns, mixed in with a few abbreviated accidental fights and shenanigans. In addition, the ending was too abrupt for my taste. That being said, I enjoyed the story and the twists within the plot.  There are a couple of layers of intrigue, and a science fiction component that I’m sure will be explored in more detail in the second book, which kept me involved in the story.

Setting: **** 4 Stars
I imagined the world as a very rural earth, and pictured the gonds like the banthas from Star Wars. It was fun to combine both the science fiction and fantasy tropes in the story. The Westgrovian society was reasonably well developed, as was the cultural interaction with the Gotroxians. I look forward to spending more time in their culture in the next book.

Relationships: **** 4 Stars
By the end of the story, Kwestor shined as a mentor for Donald. He’s the young prince’s sounding board, and despite his constant pessimism, Kwestor seems to really care for his charge, wanting him to succeed despite his perception that no matter what he does, the prince will fail. Kwestor provides strong advice and lays the foundation for a positive message throughout the trilogy.

“When all is said and done, success or failure, how you see yourself is really all that matters.”

“When you are sure, absolutely sure, you have done everything you could and you still can’t succeed, you have to be willing to admit defeat and go on. Some battles you can win, some you can’t. That’s just how things are.”

Genre – Cross-genre Science Fiction and Epic Fantasy Parody: *** 3 Stars
I love a good cross-genre novel, but THE WARDEN THREAT needed a little more science fiction to bring it all together. I imagine this will become more pronounced in future installments, but this first book read almost entirely as an epic fantasy parody until the last few chapters, and the fantasy was slightly muddled by the humorous tone and slow pacing. I could have used a bit more action, a bit more intrigue, or at least a bit more magic to bring it further into epic fantasy.

Note: This review was made at the request of the author.  The only compensation received was a free copy of the book.

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Description:
Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb?

After seventy years on Tofarn, the human colonists and the native Tofa still know very little about each other. Misunderstanding breed conflict, and the conflicts are escalating. Scientist Mara Cadell’s radical proposal: that host mothers of either species carry fraternal twins, human and Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Mara lost her own twin, Levi, in utero, but she has secretly kept him alive in her mind as companion and collaborator.

Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project – but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely?

TWIN BRED, by Karen A. Wyle
Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords

I’m pleased to have the author, Karen A. Wyle, join me today for a quick interview!

1. First off, tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background? How did you become a writer? What are your interests outside of writing?

I was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved to California at age 8. I then bounced back and forth between the coasts until I met my now-husband and moved with him to the Midwest. I now consider myself a Hoosier. I’m Jewish, the first generation of my family to be born in this country: my parents and their immediate families barely escaped Hitler’s Europe.

I don’t know when I first decided, or realized, that I was a writer. My childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist. While writing my first novel at age 10, I was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten me to the goal at age 9. I finished that novel nonetheless, attempted another at age 14, and then shifted to poetry. I made a few attempts at short stories in college, and then retired from creative writing until starting a family in my mid-
30’s inspired me to start writing picture book manuscripts. I produced two startlingly creative children, the elder of whom wrote her own first novel in 2009, at age 18, with the help of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I decided to try NaNo in 2010, completed a very rough draft of a science fiction novel (Twin-Bred ), and spent the next ten months editing it.

My other interests include politics, history, photography, and whatever my daughters are up to.

2. TWIN-BRED is such an interesting and unique concept…what was your inspiration?

I read an article online about interactions between twins in utero — synchronized movement, touching, even kissing. Either this article or a comment on the article mentioned the longterm effect of losing a twin in utero. As an avid science fiction reader, I tend to see the sci-fi potential in any event or discovery. I imagined a scientist seeking to overcome the comprehension gap between two intelligent species by way of the bond between twins. It would be natural for the
scientist who conceived this idea to be a twin; it would be intriguing if she were a twin survivor, and if she had somehow kept her lost twin alive as a companion, who could be a character in the story.

On a deeper level, I have always been fascinated by communication issues and the struggle to understand what is different.

3. Since the Tofa and humans have such trouble communicating, what happened when the humans first landed and how did the first integrated communities develop?

When the humans first landed, they attempted to communicate with the Tofa, and perhaps the Tofa attempted to communicate with them. The humans were left with the impression that they could settle in certain areas. Over time, humans moved close to some Tofa communities because the areas were in some way attractive or had needed resources, and the Tofa allowed it.

I don’t know the history of the more integrated communities, but it stands to reason that the less
xenophobic, more curious Tofa would have been the ones to experiment with living more or less
among humans.

4. The main character, Mara, lost her fraternal twin, Levi, in utero, and yet she’s managed to ‘keep him alive’ in her imagination. The two are such unique characters that it’s hard to believe they’re both really Mara. Is something more metaphysical going on there?

In part, Levi embodies aspects of Mara’s personality that she has not otherwise developed and rarely expresses. That is not necessarily all that’s going on. Mara and Levi shared the prenatal environment until shortly before Mara was born. Twin-Bred assumes that some measure of telepathy is possible, certainly for Tofa and for the occasional human as well. It is an open question whether some aspect of Mara’s and Levi’s prenatal experience allowed her to sense something of what kind of personality Levi would have had, and to use that knowledge in recreating him.

Whatever the origin of his character traits, he has a reality somewhat comparable to a multiple personality, although Mara’s relationship with him is not much like the relationships between a “core” personality and a multiple. Readers may disagree, but I personally do not see Levi as a ghost or anything of that kind.

5. Are more books planned to continue the story of the Twin-Bred? Any other unrelated
works to look forward to?

I plan on using NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2011 to get moving on a sequel to Twin-Bred. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to finish and edit it, however, because I have another rough draft, tentatively titled Reflections, waiting for my attention.

I wrote Reflections in August 2011, during “Camp Nano,” a somewhat stripped-down summer version of NaNoWriMo. It is, I guess, “general” fiction.  I have two teasers for Reflections:
–Death is what you make it.
–Will you need courage in Heaven?

In Reflections, the members of a family reunite in the afterlife, confront unfinished business, and resolve the mystery that tore the family apart. I have constructed an afterlife with features particularly suited to this purpose.

I also have a science fiction story about human cloning (tentative title: “The Baby”) in rough draft, and it may be the starting point for a collection of linked stories.

Review: **** 4 Stars: Unique and Thought Provoking Science Fiction
TWIN BRED is the fantastic debut novel by Karen A. Wyle, about the human colony on Tofarn as it struggles to interact with the native Tofa.  The two species can barely communicate, and fundamentally do not understand each other.  But Mara has a solution.

Mara is a scientist who lost her twin brother, Levi, in utero.  She always knew about him, and over the years, kept his memory by imagining him as he would have been.  As a result of this connection, Mara believes that communications between the species can be improved by implanting one human and one Tofa embryo into host mothers of both species, creating ‘twins’ designed to act as liaisons between communities.  It works.

The story follows Mara and the children as they grow and mature, facing challenges that none had anticipated.  Deep-seated prejudice on both sides threatens the project and the twin-bred’s lives.

Characters: *** 3 Stars
There were simply too many points of view in this novel.  Mara and Levi were great characters, both well-developed with distinct voices, and the two primary host mothers and their children are fantastic additions to the story, but at times I got lost in all of the voices and it could be difficult to remember all of the relationships involved.

Plot: **** 4 Stars
I loved the concept of TWIN BRED.  The plot was both imaginative and well-designed.  My only complaint really goes back to the characters, because I would have liked to have had longer sections from the main points of view, and could have done without some of the lesser points of view.  In addition, the beginning background could have been a little better interwoven with the overall story.

Setting: *** 3 Stars
I wanted more description.  The Tofa were described in detail, and certain of the surroundings were beautifully rendered, but overall I felt the setting wasn’t built into the story with enough frequency.  I kept imagining Earth, and would get shocked in a scene when things suddenly didn’t match up to my vision.

Relationships: **** 4 Stars
There wasn’t any romance built into the story, at least not in the traditional sense, so for this review I’m looking at the relationships between characters.  In particular, I thought the depth of emotion and familial love was fantastic between the twins and their families.  Mara and Levi were prominent in this, of course, but so were many of the twin-bred, particularly Judy and La-ren, and Jimmy and Peer-tek.

Genre – Science Fiction: **** 4 Stars
This was a great novel for a debut science fiction.  Karen A. Wyle thought outside the box and developed a fantastic story with fun characters.  I can’t wait to read the sequel!

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