Review: Rift of Askrah Book 1: Fracture by Benjamin Andrews- Landra’s Take

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: Maybe

First off let me say I’m a huge fantasy lover, so I’m all up for a good fantasy book; epic’s are one of my favs. Rift of Askrah has its good moments and some bad ones. First off world building is huge in the fantasy book realm, and Andrews has world building in spades. From the names I have a hard time pronouncing to the intricate details of political status and geographical makeup, overall it’s decent and easy to get absorbed in.

We start with a crown prince, he’s being held to complete these ceremonies and an arranged marriage. In the midst of an important rite of passage the Prince of Draven, Nihlen is kidnapped. What Nihlen has going for him: kidnapper companionship and the fact that Nihlen is pretty much a kick butt dude. That’s right, bring on the fight scenes! I love a good fight scene and there plenty of action. You have the Prince, the beautiful lower class female Marina, and the barbarian Cal. Cal’s not really a barbarian, but when you’re big and admit you don’t think very well you get the barbarian title. Marina and Cal weren’t keen on the whole kidnapping thing, but they were lured into the plot. These three unlikely heroes find themselves pitted against a vast array of enemies and on a mission to save the Kingdom of Draven.

What I really enjoyed is the world Andrews created. There were some interesting practices, belief systems, and political alignments that kept me wanting to know more. Nihlen possesses a special ability, the Eye of Kings, and the mythos behind it is very impressive. I found this to be big Achilles heel for the character and enjoyed watching how he adjusted to it. All the characters have depth, and capacity to learn and grow. I found the interactions between them at times to flow easily and at other moments contrived. The overall pacing of the journey is crafted well, though the first chapter dragged due to setting the scene.  

What bothered me the most was what felt like a weak amount of editing to this book. Structure, word repetition, and massive amounts of description were used. When these things occurred I felt disjointed from the story, almost like I was a viewer in the world being kicked out of it. I did my best to read through the story in an attempt to overlook these flaws, but I often found myself scanning for repeat phrases, which in some portions were easy to locate. For me this put a dampener on my reading experience and for future books I would recommend additional editing. The plot, pacing, the world and even the characters in my opinion have a ton of potential. This book just needed fine tuning.

If you’re someone who can overlook the little things and just wants to get lost in a fantasy then this book may still be something you want to add to reading list. For me I would love to see future books, with a stronger emphasis on the writing being equal to the storytelling.

This Week’s Read- Rift of Askrah Book 1: Fracture by Benjamin Andrews

Nihlen Draven lives what most would consider the perfect life of royalty. As heir to the throne of the nation of Draven, he has been groomed for his future since birth. But as he approaches adulthood, his heart yearns for the freedom to choose his own destiny.In the neighboring nation of Rinh, a young street thief named Marina does her best to survive the mean streets of the city with her best friend Cal. When a questionable contact from their past offers them more gold than either of them can imagine for a simple kidnap and ransom of a foreign prince, Marina jumps at the opportunity to extract herself and her friend from the poverty of Rinh.

But as the kidnapping goes sour and Draven falls into the hands of Rinh, a strange ability surfaces in the young prince, and the shadows of a forgotten nation called Askrah leak into the world once more.

In Fracture, Book 1 of the Rift of Askrah series, join Nihlen as he unlocks the secrets of the Eye of the Kings and embarks on an epic quest to regain his kingdom.

 Check out Rift of Askrah Book 1: Fracture at:

Author Interview- George Berger

This lovely July Saturday I’ve got author George Berger with me to answer a few questions about his book, Without A Spark. Luckily for me George and I have a similar sense of humor because a more serious person would have been a bit put off by my questions. Without further ado– George!

1. What was your inspiration for Without A Spark?

Believe it or not, I can actually say with complete sincerity and confidence that the original, most nebulous idea, came to me in late July, 2009. Without going into extensively boring details, I’d been writing and thinking about way that claims of responsibility for criminal actions are usually accepted at face value, and why this is both analytically suspect and exploitable in various ways.

In a nutshell, I thought “there’s an idea for an interesting story there”, and let things germinate and evolve from there. Eventually, Without A Spark… happened. 🙂

2. Are you an ecoterrorist, just joking, but really is the environment an important topic to you or is it more important to stop people from doing these kind of things?

Senator, I am not now nor have I ever been an ecoterrorist. 🙂 I consider environmental matters very important, and I think everyone should, but, not to sound too cynical, I’m deeply suspicious and distrustful of extremist, fanaticism, in any form.  I don’t want to get super political, but I’ll just say I’m greatly relieved that the environmental extremist movement is devoid of competent leadership and utterly lacking in direction, and leave it at that.

3. I can tell from this book that you enjoy humor, do your other stories have a lot of humorous elements?

They all do, to greater or lesser extents. I generally don’t try to write deeply serious books that demand extensive contemplation; I mostly try to produce unabashedly populist entertainment, and if I can make people grin or chuckle now and then, I’ve at least accomplished something. For the most part it’s not something I plan; it just… happens.

4. The main character, Kevin, has this problem of sneezing whenever he’s aroused, is this a real condition? If so, do you suffer from it?

Believe it or not, you’re the first person to ask about this. It is, in fact, a real medical condition – Sexually-Induced Sneezing. ( No, I’m mercifully unencumbered with this particular issue. It’s just something I stumbled across on the internet once, years ago, and remembered, with the thought “Wow, that’s gotta suck”.

There’s a long and strange association between the nose and sex; there’s a trope in Japan about people having nosebleeds when they’re aroused, and – even stranger – it was at one time or another believed that putting a green onion up someone’s nose acted as an aphrodisiac. Let’s not think about the symbolism there too closely, eh? 🙂 Possibly even weirder yet, while looking up the details on sexually-induced sneezing ahead of writing Without A Spark, I discovered there’s a whole, large, internet community of people who are aroused by watching other people sneeze. (And no, I don’t have that issue, either.)

The way I write, I come up with characters first, then write a story around them. Kevin, right from the beginning, was conceived as a character with this condition. It’s quirky and memorable, and I’m sure a lot of people find it amusing, but it’s a big problem for him, and has really kind of helped shape his life, much as Maura being deaf has made her who she is. So, it’s not like it was thrown in as a joke, or an afterthought, or anything. That particular bit of weirdness was there from day one…

5. Will there be or is there already more Kevin, Maura, and Box adventures planned?

I have some nebulous plans for at least one sequel, but it probably won’t happen for a bit, I’m afraid. Though it’s really hard to say; if inspiration suddenly strikes…

While Without A Spark was my conscious effort to (unusually, for me) write a reasonably mainstream book that people would actually want to read, it was still largely written for my own, amusement, I guess, for lack of a better word, and a large part of that was trying new things, tackling new challenges. In this case it’s is a thriller, with some fairly complicated relationships, and a character who doesn’t actually speak. (Which proved far less of a challenge than I thought it’d be, surprisingly.) That done, I moved on to try new things – my next novel, due out late this summer, is a happily-ever-after romance, albeit one about a woman and the androgynous, pangendered person she falls in love with, and after that it’s a will-they-or-won’t-they romantic comedy about an introvert who meets a very strange homeless girl and tries to befriend her against her wishes, while random strangers and an army of militant octogenarians try to kill him. Oh, and there’s a sarcastic housecat, too. So, it could be a bit before I come back to Kevin, Maura, and Box, alas…

Author Interview – Cynthia Justlin

Sorry for the delay in posting, everyone! Vacation kinda snuck up on me and…well…I’m sure we all know what the beach can do to a person’s memory and willingness to work….  HOWEVER, Cynthia has been gracious enough to join me for an interview, and I think you guys will appreciate her answers.

1. You mentioned that you enjoy writing stories with a lot of action, and Intrusion definitely delivers. What were the movies you loved growing up that inspired you to write this way?

Wow. That’s a tough question, because I’m a huge movie junkie! Anything from the Goonies, to The Princess Bride, to Indiana Jones, Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, Say Anything, Better off Dead, Ferris Bueller, and every single Gene Kelly movie ever made. That probably showcases my love of romance more than it does my love of action, but I pretty much love a good adventure, whether that comes from action/suspense or just the adventure of life.

2. If you could pick any action stars to play Cam and Audra, who would they be and why?

I’d always pictured Audra as Rachel McAdams. She’s kind of got that girl next door/vulnerable quality that I associate with Audra. As for Cam…that’s tough, because I don’t really think of actor comparisons for my heroes. The quirk of Joaquin Phoenix with the looks of Patrick Dempsey and the action/toughness of Ralph Fiennes. I know, that’s a weird combo, but Cam has a lot of layers so it’s hard to think of one actor that embodies all those qualities.    

3. We get a brief mention of Keith and Grace, the main characters from Her Own Best Enemy. Will Cam and Audra be making any future cameos?

It’s possible! As I write the third book in The Remnants series, I may try to find a way to slip them in there. It’s always fun to revisit characters. Truth is, when I was writing HER OWN BEST ENEMY, Cam was really meant to be a ‘throwaway’ character. Someone that walks on, does his thing, and walks off. But, he leaped onto the page and tried to steal the show, so he needed his own book. He’s a character near and dear to my heart, so I imagine I’ll want to bring him back in future books.

4. I was amazed by the research you had to do for all the technology-heavy aspects of the book. What was the hardest writing you had to do? The easiest?

I have a science background, so I actually really enjoyed researching all the technology in the book. I think the hardest part was trying to ensure that I was using the technology in a plausible way. It’s very important to me to write accurately, but that accuracy does make it difficult to write those action scenes sometimes! The easiest, by far, was just writing anything in Cam’s POV. Especially when he was trying to deliberately get under Audra’s skin. I had a lot of fun writing those!

5.  Any new projects we should be keeping an eye on?

I’m the first to admit that I need to learn to write faster. I have more ideas than I have time and I’m a huge perfectionist when it comes to my books, so I don’t want to release anything that isn’t ready. But I’m currently working on the third book in The Remnants series, which features a sniper turned assassin hero and revolves around the world of corporate espionage. No firm release date on that yet. But readers can always visit my website (, which I keep current, and/or subscribe to my newsletter to learn about my upcoming projects.

Thanks for the great interview, Cynthia!

Intrusion is available at:


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Review: Without A Spark by George Berger- Landra’s Take

Genre: Thriller

Rating: Yay!

This  book was a surprise, in multiple ways. First off I’m not a big thriller fan. I don’t get all jazzed up with a mystery and guys with guns, etc. in books; with movies it’s a completely different story. So, when I started this book I tried to keep my mind a blank slate, and open to possibility of getting involved. Let’s just say myself and the book got along famously. For one thing I laughed, out loud, a bunch. This laughing thing is an excellent sign of a well crafted story, and not just stupid raunchy humor. No, some of this stuff is what I call intelligent humor. 

The entire story is from main character Kevin’s POV, and he’s a hoot! First off he suffers from a condition that makes him sneeze when he’s aroused. That’s right, he sneezes and not just once, but multiple times. Kevin’s not your average college student. He lives in a girls-only dorm, and is pursuing an English degree on a computer geared full ride scholarship… insane right? But it gets better. Within the first 5 pages he and his awesomely, deaf roommate Maura bring down a gun-toting crazy dude with a baseball bat, strip the guy, paint rapist on his chest, and load him up with a small druggie cocktail.

Let’s just say everything goes downhill from there, and I fell in love. Kevin’s way of thinking, and his internal dialogue are a constant source of comedy. He’s got a unique way of thinking that’s the right mix of intelligence, and late- adolescence ignorance to keep me reading. I can relate to this male kid with a unique job, and the philosophy that he can’t face the world until he eats breakfast. Kevin’s also an omelet man; my kinda guy!   Maura is an awesome character, and writing a deaf romantic interest is unique to books I’ve read. Berger does a fabulous job of giving Maura a unique personality, even though she never utters a word. Add to the fact that she’s just a bit sadistic when it comes to punishing bad people, and a genius with computers she’s the best sidekick you could have on your side.

There’s a couple of other secondary characters that produce giggles, and by the end of the book I was thrilled with the character development. Each character offers something refreshing from the desire to take down gun-toting idiots to being confident enough to review fetish equipment. I will say this book is about being a fun read with an ultimately happy ending. Berger doesn’t let the bottom drop out completely or make things too challenging for the characters; which in this case wasn’t a bad thing. Honestly, it was nice to read a thriller that resolves itself without characters getting needlessly shot at or trying to save the United States from oblivion. With a decent plot point and a character driven adventure Berger gives you a light romp with a bit of mischief. The stakes are high, but easily overcome. The mystery not to mind baffling that someone looking for a basic read can’t enjoy.

If you’re hardcore thriller fan this book probably isn’t for you. If you’re scared of intimacy between book characters or prefer your thrillers to be sans intercourse then this book is not for you. Otherwise I suggest this as a great summer read that will make you laugh and be thankful for your uneventful life… since you get to experience Kevin’s.

This Week’s Read – Without A Spark by George Berger

Small towns sometimes hold the biggest secrets.Kevin should know; attending college in sleepy little Mud River, he’s got plenty of secrets of his own. None of them, however, can explain why he and his co-ed roommate are being framed for ecoterrorism. Untangling that mystery would probably be easy, if his personal, professional, and love lives didn’t keep getting in the way.He’s sure common sense and reason will prevail, and that his actual innocence will see him through. When dead bodies start turning up, however, he knows the government might well throw reason to the wind…

Without A Spark is a 50,000-word / 210-page novel about life, love, ecoterrorism, the people who commit it–and the people who take the blame.

Check out Without A Spark at: