Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Reviews: The Lost Knight by Candy Atkins

Although I adore fantasy, I also love reading something fresh and new and in that sense, Candy Atkins has deliver something wonderfully fresh in the Lost Knight. This tale may start off like your typical YA venture with a young protagonist living in unenviable conditions, but what feels familiar is quickly dissolved when Agatha sees something in an orb… what was it? She can’t tell but she knows her aunt and a visitor show great interest in this. And that’s when a specter shows up to take Agatha to safety. The shadow’s name is Jonah and this is one magnificent character with powers and a personality that make him as likable as they come.

It turns out that there are two world coexisting and the only person who can help connect both worlds if she wishes it, is Agatha. What ensues is an adventure where we see full reimaginings of elves, faeries, and countless other creatures.

One of the moments when Atkins truly excels is when she takes her time with a subject and character development. Some people may make a case that Agatha is too stroppy, but being a teenager, I think the angst is appropriate and if it annoys, by all means remember how “cool” you were at thirteen. On the other hand, characters like Jonah, Albína, Dathid, and the lovable Lenox all have wonderful developments and variety. Another is with her locations, I won’t ruin the discovery of them but there are places where she truly takes her time to flesh things out and this is always a good thing. When I lost touch a bit with the story is in instances when it feels like the story was rushed and situations resolved in a paragraph. It’s not something that always happens, but when it does and you compare it to those lush, gorgeous scenes in caves, and the ocean, when she really unleashes that imagination, you can’t help but wish those few parts that were rushed got the same treatment. The ocean scene in particular I think should be mandatory reading for all teens due to the craft as much as the message.

The only other critique I could offer the work is that it ends a bit abruptly and I feel we could have gotten a couple of more chapters even if we didn’t get the whole thing. It felt cut short and true I was left wanting to read more, but instead of hungry it was more like ugh, I wanted more before I wanted more.

Still, this is a wonderful addition to the collection of any lovers of fantastical worlds who are eager to find the Lost Knight.

Happy reading.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Reviews - The Whisper Collector by Anaïs Chartschenko

Not all whispers are sweet, but these are beautifully raw

Anaïs Chartschenko has a knack for writing things that disarm me. Rarely if ever do you read anything that emotionally naked and disarming. But it is not vulnerable or weak. These whispers are barbwired, they’re raw, they’re deep, and they are intense. Chartschenko pulls no punches and if you’re looking for red roses and blue violets, look elsewhere. If instead you want poetry that bites, then read The Whisper Collector

There are five collections within this volume and each varies in intensity and format. Some have poems with long lines, others are short rapid fire lines that stab the flesh of your emotions. I am certain some people who are more sensitive will either be offended or shocked by the lines here. But for me, I was amazed at the raw beauty she once again captures. 

At times lyrical, you could easily envision poems in song form or spoken over a dirge-like piano and I wouldn’t mind these collections coming as a booklet in a CD. These are poems that are vivid though quite often very direct. What’s amazing in these collections isn’t in the metaphors but in the pure emotion you find within these verses. Once again, Chartschenko proves that there is beauty in scars, in darkness, and in whispers.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Adventures in self-promotion – Where to buy me

For months I’ve been working on or promising to work on more self-promotion. It’s funny because a lot of people don’t know I’m published or that I have 8 books, but that is the case, and in very little time, that’s going to go up to 12 and by the end of the year probably more.

What often happens is that people offer to send me cash or checks in exchange for the books because they don’t want to give the money to Amazon or anyone else. Although I appreciate the sentiments, I’d rather lose money in the hopes of more people getting wind of my work and it being reflected in results that are verifiable and not speculation.

So in search of the best online option for physical books, I looked up the links to my Createspace store and am including them here with a small descriptive of the books. Createspace is where I am supposed to earn the most money even if sales don’t register on Amazon (actually not sure on this). Still, I wanted to offer this as an option for people in search of my books.

Thanks to everyone who has asked and supported and your great intentions. I do hope to eventually have my own online store. For the moment, we have this option. 

Estrada Works:

Only Human

My first novel and the first installment of the Human Cycle has Nathaniel Runnels being kidnapped by a vampire and told point blank that either he helps save the world, or he ends up being dinner. The Human Cycle is my deepest explorations for how I define humanity and all the things that make us human. There are a myriad of Easter eggs and moments that evoke Tolkien and Gaiman apparently. A dark and twisted urban fantasy adventure, Only Human is meant to raise questions and invite you to ponder on all the implications of hundreds of “what ifs”.

Shadow of a Human

Book 2 of the Human Cycle occurs two years after the events of Only Human unfold. Although the first book is dark, at times Shadow of a Human makes it look like a Beatrix Potter book. Part of the human aspect that unites us is our consciousness and at times we are bleak in how we express our humanity. Nathaniel has had 2 years to register newfound powers and realizing that absolutely everything in this life comes at a price. As he struggles to retain his humanity and sanity, he is forced to mend in order to find the truths needed to save the world.

Between the Tides

My first poetry collection is based on the ups and downs in the tides of our lives. With poems covering topics like life mistakes, the sea, and cheese, this eclectic collection is bound to entertain as you flow through this life.

Dark Strands
The first collection of dark poetry, imagery is meant to show that there’s beauty in darkness. Including the biting ‘Rats in the Dark’ and the 72 line narrative poem Miranda and the Broken Ghost, which was written with an ABACADABA rhyme scheme, this collection is for those who like a little darkness with their verses.

Captured Moments

Social commentary on gender and racial equality coexists with the finer things in life like tea and beer in this collection of verses. Occasionally chipper and often very in your face, this collection is for those who don’t mind reading intense verses that offer food for thought to be better humans.

Pensando en Metáforas

The first poetry collection in Spanish was done as a tribute to his mother and to keep the promise of releasing something completely in Spanish. Many poems in this collection were written during intense moments just to show that we can find beauty even in the hardest times.

Twenty Veinte

My first bilingual collection, it includes poetry, essays, and short stories in both English and Spanish with a bilingual poem in the middle to transition from one language to the other. Variety is the name of the game and poetry goes from elegant “Marquis de Sade” to decadent “The Cup” to slam poetry “Stop a dealin”. The short stories include sci fi, fantasy, and the upcoming fight of an old boxer.

Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore

My collection of independent short stories set in the world of Draem. Each story is meant to be enjoyed individually although connections sometimes arise, like dreams in that sense. From finding out what curiosity cola tastes like to seeing the performances in the Kung-Fu Circus, this collection is an invitation to let your daydreams and imagination soar.

So there you have it, a little snippet on my books. If you have any questions about these or any of my other works, by all means, ask away. Thank you for reading, and as usual…

Peace, love, and maki rolls

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Album Review: Elbow – Little Fictions

For the longest time I’ve been a huge fan of Elbow and they are a band I never had on the radar, until I listened to their amazing album Cast of Thousands 13 years ago. Since that moment I knew this was going to be one of my favorite bands and they have delivered with every single album they’ve released.

Of note I do have to mention one very important fact about this band, they are one of the few groups fully committed to making a functional album instead of a collection of good songs. Each album has its own ebb and flow, its own identity within the Elbow universe and spoken with their own language.

Last year Radiohead released A Moon Shaped Pool which was an astoundingly beautiful album. With Little Fictions, Elbow offers us a slice of beauty of their own, but unlike the melancholy of Radiohead’s work, there is a bright and hopeful aspect to Elbow’s music that you can’t help but feel as if the day gets brighter with a listen. It is a masterfully crafted album, with bright layers of strings, keys, drums, bass, guitars, and wonder. Although I can say the same about the Take of and Landing of Everything, I must admit that this album is a lot more well-rounded and every song begs to be listened.

As for song sequence, it’s brilliant and feels right. For a song-by-song breakdown, read below:

Magnificent (She says): a wonderful winding song, it starts with a wonderful groove but doesn’t take long to spread its wings and give a big pull into the sky. The strings in this song are a wonderful compliment and as always, Guy Garvey is on point with lyrics and vocal delivery. It’s a song that inspires hope and shows the power of one person in this world, even if it’s just to make us smile.

Gentle Storm: the groove in this song harkens to late 80’s songs (thinking INXS). It is one of those songs that doesn’t have to be cryptic to get its point across. Just a gorgeous song to start the day to for me and yes, that does include some hip shimmying and happy dancing while I repeat the lyrics: “Fall in love with me, every day.”

Trust the Sun: a song that harkens a bit to the album Leaders of the Free World. It has that mechanical whimsical funk that only this band can play before the piano eases in beautifully along with the guitar. Lyrically, this has to be one of the richest songs on the album: “The Napkin inks the world away.”  But musically it is such a meticulously crafted beauty you can't help but wonder how the hell they did that.

All Disco: Such a happy and pretty song. It’s the type of song fitting for a morning in an alternate world where everyone is a fairy and still remembers to smile and say good morning. Another lush lyrical beauty of a song. It’s a musicalized poem designed to start the day on the right foot.

Head for Supplies: What begins as a bright echo laced guitar riff dances with the bassline before the drums and vocals ease in. And yes, yet another beautiful song, this time with a chorus that really adds a layer to this song like watching a flower blossom in repeat.

Firebrand and Angel: Handclaps and funky drum lines start you up before some nice fat piano notes stomp in. That the piano is that aggressive while the guitars and bass are so subtle show that Elbow has a collective chemistry that will not happen elsewhere. And the lyrics are some sort of bright noir funk: "Wishing on you got me a hatful of rain/ And three lost years/ When you’re in her mirror you don’t even feel / The tears that fall." Not often is an album as worthy to read as it is to listen.

K2: Another mellow song that benefits from vocals with delay and bright sunshine music. I like this one as well, but if I had to choose one song I don’t adore, it’s this one. So we’ll have to settle for just loving it :D.

Montparnasse: “Your heart could easy power three of me / Should my love get lost in the delivery”….. that. Such a deep felt song with a simple piano line that offers quotable line after quotable line. When they want to be simple and hit you in the gut, Elbow are VERY capable of doing so.

Little fictions: this song starts with as much opera drama as you can imagine only to ease into another funky Tom Waits like groove. Then the song opens up and gives Garvey ample space to punch in the chorus as if he’s screaming to the heavens. The amount of sonic texture this song has is amazing and so many feels from all sides. Just gorgeous.

Kindling: for a closer, Elbow brings a beautiful song to share a drink with friends. There’s some regret but fond memories and love will help us through to the sunshine in this chorusless song.

This is a relaxed masterpiece and Elbow are relaxed masters. They always push themselves, it feels as if they have something to prove but rather than tackling those challenges with anger and angst, it’s with hope, camaraderie, and a lot of love.

Enjoy with a cup of tea either alone or with the company of somebody you care about. 

Peace, love, and maki rolls.