It’s the time of summer vacations and travel is slowly, slowly opening back up!
But the act of traveling is kind of weird when you think about it. You have this sense of being on a great adventure while stuck in cramped spaces for hours with very little sleep and a good deal of stress. It’s not all ‘pony rides in May sunshine,’ as Bilbo would say. So, you need just the right book to keep that adventuresome spirit up till you reach your destination.
Here’s a mini review on a few fast-paced, action-packed, adventure reads to keep you entertained while you await your own.
Kenan is first in the Katiller series by Karis Waters (aka Katie Phillips of Katie Phillip’s Creative Services). An Action Rom-Com featuring Turkish hitmen, a trio of plucky American girls, and the road trip from hell that became your favorite family vacation.
Macario’s Scepter is first in the Magian series by M.J. McGriff. A Fantasy Adventure featuring pirates, a treasure-hunting nun, sisterhood, and sea serpents! I particularly enjoyed the twist on the twins trope.
Renegade Skyfarer is first in the Stones of Terrene series by R.J Metcalf. A Steampunk featuring an amnesiac, an airship crew, dragons, and soulless creatures known as the Void Born. Lots of mystery and twists in this one! And the finale, Blood Bond, just released two weeks ago! If you’re a binger like me, you won’t be kept waiting 😉
I don’t talk about it that often. Partly because I was raised not to be too open and partly because it feels a bit like showing off. But I grew up on the mission field and spent the majority of my life moving around Central Asia. One of the places I remember best is Istanbul, Turkey. I loved my time there and the culture! I often wish I could go back for a visit. So, when I was given a non-fic assignment in college, I decided to do a travel piece.
A wail pierced the night and soon became a chant. I was ripped from the thin veil of sleep I had just managed to pull over my eyes. Within seconds, the chant was taken up in all directions. With the wailing came the howling of the stray dog packs that took possession of the vacant lot next door. “Ughh! How will I ever sleep here?” Mosques weren’t exactly a new thing for me, but I had never been near ones fully equipped with very capable loudspeakers. At least three within hearing range, and none of them quite in sync.
By the time I moved, nearly five years later, I had gotten used to it. There came a point when I would sit near the window through the whole call to prayer and not realize I had heard it until it was over. Nevertheless, those first few nights were rough. Battling jet lag at the same time wasn’t much of an advantage either. It was better during the day. Not that the call was any less earsplitting or disruptive, but it was tempered with the noise of the busy city. I had to listen for it over the rumble of buses and cars as I made my way to church on Sunday mornings with my family.
Boarding the bus, I would scan my akbil to pay for the ride and try to find a seat. There often wasn’t one. I soon mastered the art of staying upright on a crowded bus that was constantly lurching forward and stopping abruptly. I distracted myself in these less than ideal situations by watching out the window. As I passed the crowds of people and cramped buildings, I realized how lucky we were to have found such a great place to live.
In Istanbul, a city housing 15 million and spanning two continents, there is not much room for any one person. However, we were blessed with a standalone apartment building containing a small, nicely tended, garden. There was a scrap yard across the street, but at least no windows looking in on us. And though the empty lot next door provided the dogs with a congregating spot (and the stench from the animals housed there at Ramadan was certainly not pleasant) we were far better off than many others.
As the bus crested one of the many hills it traversed every day, I was given a glimpse of the wonder of this city. The buildings, that up close looked dirty with dust and chipping paint, here became a vibrant mosaic: white, yellow, orange, and pink, and brown, all with red tile roofs running down to meet the glistening curve of the Bosphorus. Which I would then cross by boat.
Another scan of the akbil, a helping hand to board, and a short swaying walk past the enclosed seating of the first level, where one could buy snacks and tea, and up to the top for a clear view and delicious breeze. That is one of the things I miss most about Turkey. The boat ride, but also the food. Toast (more like an English toastie or a grilled cheese than the American breakfast food); pide and lahmacun (the conquerors of all pizza); iskender, döner, and köfte (savory meat dishes); kebaps; and for special occasions, baklava and sütlaç! But I digress.
Once docked, the ripe smell of the fish market met my nose. From there it was just a short walk to the metro and then onto Istiklal Caddesi (or Independence Avenue). “Now, I heard there was supposed to be another demonstration today,” my mother would say, “so we have to be careful.” Right, because Istiklal wouldn’t be Istiklal without some form of protest. But the protests were generally peaceful, not much more than a small group holding signs and some riot police standing by just in case. More importantly, they generally took place at the opposite end of the street from us. Although, Istiklal has won itself international fame for the demonstrations that became rather violent a couple years back.
Despite this, I always liked Istiklal. A long, cobbled street, displaying some gorgeous architecture. With quaint red and white trams running through its middle, it is home to some superb restaurants and splendid shops. Most tourists like to visit the grand Hagia Sophia and the fragrant Spice Bazzar. I thoroughly enjoyed my bit of this typical experience; however, I found a shop I much preferred to visit. I only went in a few times and was never able to buy anything, but it was more astounding to me than any amount of refurbished paintings or tasteful cooking supplies. Somewhere in the press of buildings on Istiklal Caddesi is a small second-hand shop most wouldn’t see unless they knew it was there. Inside is a treasure house. A labyrinth of cultural artifacts, lightly coated with dust under dim lighting, and exuding a musty sent. Faded fezzes, rusting swords, tapestries woven in rugs, furs, pipes, and elaborate dresses fit for a sultana. Many of the objects came from the sets of old films, or so I was told.
Emerging from the magical closet, my path led back to the teeming dock, over the rippling river, onto the bus stocked with a myriad of people, and into the apartment with a yard and empty lot. There to have dinner and listen to the symphony on the loudspeakers once again. And so I adapted to much more than a call from a mosque. I imbibed the sights, smells, tastes, and feelings of this vibrant culture and found my home, my place among 15 million.
Hi, everyone! I’ve been out for a while, so I just want to give a quick life update. Work is out for the summer and I just got back from a trip to Italy!
We spent about a week with lovely friends in Belluno and took day trips to the Dolomites (part of the Alps) and Verona! Highlight for me was, of course, Juliet’s house. Even though it was crazy crowded. I even tried a coffee. It was ok with enough sugar but I think I’ll stick with tea. Their hot chocolate, however, is amazing!
Now that I’m back, I’ve got to really crunch down on the writerly things. I’ll be giving my first pitch for To Slay a Curse at Realm Makers conference in about a month, and there’s tons of stuff to get ready by then. I’m freaking out a little, but really excited.
Now, on to what you’re really here for: books! I did get through two great indie reads during travel time and just want to give a mini review here.
If Wishes Were Curses by Janeen Ippolito
Janeen’s new series has all you could want in an Urban Fantasy: shifters, snark, mystery, and mayhem! What’s more, the sequel Wish You Weren’t Here just dropped!
Blurb: So, I accidentally killed a shifter. On purpose. With genie powers I shouldn’t be able to use, thanks to my curse-mark. In my defense, the damn grizzly was threatening civilians and might have been a vampire as well. Pittsburgh is safer without him. Only the Fae court doesn’t believe my story, and the shifters are out for blood. Now I’ve lost my job as a romantic investigator, and I’m on death row. My only hope is an oddly outgoing vegetarian vampire lawyer who seems strangely familiar. Too familiar. Almost like we’ve met before, and this whole thing was a set-up to take us both down. Wishing won’t get us out of this mess. But my forbidden wish magic just might.
The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder
If you like The Greatest Showman and Sherlock Holmes you will love this steampunk adventure! Can’t wait for the sequel slated to come out later this summer!
Blurb: The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt. Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively–but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially–but none of the scruples. To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, The Electrical Menagerie’s bid at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians–but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there’s more at stake in this contest than the prize. Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide…and it’s the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.
Overall, both were thrilling fast-paced reads great for on the plane, at the beach, or just whenever!